Colors Review

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Colors n the Hood

by Casimir Harlow Aug 10, 2015 at 8:37 AM

  • Movies review

    Colors Review

    A nice companion-piece and counterpoint to the admittedly superior Boyz n the Hood, Colors boasts a heavyweight Robert Duvall and a young Sean Penn facing urban warfare in LA.

    Established a decade earlier, the 1988 film focusses on LAPD's CRASH Division, combating gang crimes across LA. Woefully outnumbered, we follow two officers - one veteran on the cusp of retirement and one cocky newcomer - as they navigate the gang-ridden neighbourhoods, and deal with what they encounter in very different ways. Duvall's seasoned pro knows the pointlessness of busting criminals for petty offences, and the wasted time the paperwork will take, and adopts a far more pragmatic attitude to policing the streets; his name is known amongst the gangs, some of whom even respect him, and he's only after the bigger fish.
    Conversely Penn's brash newbie wants to police the hell out of the world, crack down on the streets and wipe out crime all in a day's work - adopting CRASH's motto to effectively be just another gang on the streets. The two clash repeatedly, whilst trying to juggle the machinations of a trio of criminal gangs - the Bloods, Crips and the Latino contingent - all of whom seem destined to wipe each other out. Returning to the director's chair some 16 years after Easy Rider, the late Dennis Hopper sparked off something of a career resurgence with this acclaimed cop drama.

    Affording some measure of authenticity to his vision of LA gang violence, and enlisting the help of many real gang members along the way (some of whom were even shot over the course of the production), Hopper's production was really quite daring for the time.

    It may not be as poetic or powerful as Boyz, but it still makes for a great companion-piece.

    Borrowing from the real life Operation Hammer that preceded it, whilst also foreboding the later LA Riots, it actually started its life as a Chicago drug gang script which Hopper had rewritten to fit the LA themes. Hopper initially had Mickey Rourke pegged for Penn's role, which would have certainly made for a different film, potentially throwing the balance between the two leads, and Sean Penn makes for a good foil to Duvall's heavyweight. With some early Ice-T peppering the classic rap soundtrack, and some dynamic support from now-famous faces (Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans, Tony Todd), as well as Hopper turning in a strong effort as the director, this is a well-made piece which may not be as poetic or powerful as it's younger brother, Boyz n the Hood, but is still a great little police drama.

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