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Richmond L. Aguilar
A confident young cop is shown the ropes by a veteran partner in the dangerous gang-controlled barrios of L.A. about to explode in violence in this look at the gang culture enforced by the colors that members wear. Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
Leans too heavily on action and police movie clichés, but generally effective.
It was about 1988 when people in my suburban world first became aware of the inner city war between Bloods, Crips, and many of the fringe groups. This film, along with the rise of "gangster rap" were probably my first exposure to this culture. And its safe to say that if anything, the problem has only gotten worse in the past two decades. Gangs are still killing each other, and they seldom need a reason to do so.
Colors is a fairly daring film directed by Dennis Hopper. The story wishes to point out the plight of inner-city youths caught up in gangs as well as the futility of law enforcement in dealing with them. Robert Duvall and Sean Penn play basically the timeless "good cop/bad cop" duo out to learn what they can on the street and help prevent as much gang crime as possible. The film starts out strongly detailing the differences in their respective approaches to the job. Both men are a joy to watch, and continue to be so to this day. There are few American actors as talented as either man. However, as the story progresses, these two main characters seem to get kind of lost in the shuffle, and the story becomes more about the gang members. They are mostly interesting people, but you're going to find yourself wishing for more of the two leads.
The film is packed with shootouts and car chases.... perhaps a few too many. A lot of thought went into stunt work, fight scenes, and explosions. Most are not needed. Had Colors stayed more of a thoughtful drama instead of an action pic, it would have had a much bigger impact. The Los Angeles we see here is well filmed, and seems off limits to those who don't live there. This was certainly the intention. There are some wonderful little details that project the local flare. In one scene for example, while Penn and Duvall are questioning a group of Hispanic suspects in the Barrio, you can hear a rooster crowing just off screen. The cast is teeming with soon-to-be famous folks like Damon Wayans, Don Cheadle, Glen Plummer and many others. Look out for a young Mario Lopez as a young gang member. But what on earth was Malakai from Children of the Corn doing in the Barrio???? 7 of 10 stars.
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