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Consider the range and the capture of characters in one movie, Colors
delivers multiple plot lines from a number of sides.
I remember when this movie first came out I was in Jr. high school. Colors was a controversial movie talked about by teachers, principles and parents because, believe it or not, it had a tendency for glorification and encouraging gang membership.
To my surprise, the movie has little glorification in it and was a grim summary of Los Angeles gang life (and even that of law enforcement.) The movie does not spoon feed its audience, save for a few minor comments that were cheesy at their worst and cleverly woven in at their best.
In some cases the portrayal of gang life in LA might have been TOO broad and sophisticated for many viewers. The title COLORS and its implication was meant to explain the rival Crip and Blood gangs but in fact that was merely a pretext. Soon into the movie the viewer is taken into various other neighborhoods as well as other gangs, including WHITE FENCE and 21st Street.
For those that denounce this movie as being outdated, cheesy or otherwise, it's hard for me to understand what you are paying attention to. If you remember the 80's in the slightest, it was a time of decadent and flamboyant neon glow ala Prince, Michael Jackson and various other nonsense. The irony is that COLORS portrays a world that was virtually isolated and separate from the 80's because that is what it was MEANT to point out. This was gang life at its peak, before any of the gangster rap hit white suburbia and became a marketable fad. This was BEFORE white folks thought it was cool. It was isolated from the look and feel of the rest of the 80's because this world was isolated from the general population.
For this reason I am surprised that anyone would call the movie outdated in any way. "Timeless" is the word I use to describe it.
Despite all this, Hopper manages to incorporate the storyline between Duval and Penn. Not only is this a brilliant interaction between two great actors, it also has a more marketable value to a white audience that would otherwise have been turned off by the subject matter and considered it, unfairly, as a "blacksploitation" film. Let's face it, Hollywood is big business. The ability to market this movie with ANY semblance of a good plot line but making it even remotely realistic is an amazing achievement.
Hopper goes beyond doing both. I would not be surprised to see this movie in the classics section, someday.
My generation remembers these times...This is before Rodney King and
the riots, before the relentless moralizing of Spike Lee and John
Singleton. Back then, urban gang warfare was comfortably distant. This
is before cell phones, bling, rims, before the thug life became a
Colors is distinctive for Hopper's tight focus, his honest approach and complete lack of sentimentality. The world depicted here is horizontal, and filmed horizontally; it is ugly and unironic, and in a way egalitarian; there are NO courts or lawyers, every introduction of ethics is literally shot down.
It's hard to imagine anything being made like this in today's multiculti/PC world, any such attempt would immediately provoke shrieking and clutching of skirts at the sight of 'racism'.
This paradigm of movie-making didn't survive, it disappeared like Duvall's soul in that departing helicopter shot. Unfortunately, the trend went the way of "Boyz n the Hood".
Before you had BOYS N THE HOOD or MENACE II SOCIETY, there was COLORS. This movie is the original article in urban-street dramas that spawned many followers in the 90's. But like those films it is an intense, powerful movie that takes you to the streets in an extremely realistic way. The caption on the VHS cover says something like two gangs at war(Bloods & Crips)with the police caught in between. Well, that is pretty misleading. Although most films like this would stick with the gang war as the main focus, COLORS has many different plot levels that all come together very nicely. Sean Penn & Robert Duvall are right on the mark as the two officers on the beat. The film ultimately succeeds through its perspectives, giving points of view from all sides and fully expresses the harsh reality that everyone involved faces. When the film first came out, it was bashed for its extreme violence and portrayal of gang members. Well, I definitely think Dennis Hopper did an excellent job and I feel that violence is crucial in a film like this to add to its strong sense of reality which some people may not be too familiar with.
Until I checked this out on IMDB, I had no idea that Dennis Hopper was the
director. Wow, that says a lot about his directing ability.
In a void, this movie might not be great. Someone from the UK complained about it. I'm not from Compton but, this movie rates up there with the other true-to-lifers like Boyz in the Hood, and other gang related "classics" (as they deserve to be called).
This is a great movie with great acting and a great plotline. It's a pretty realistic view (again, I'm not a gang banger, so maybe my view is skewed) of the gang life in L.A. And it was the first to really portray it... I'm still a big fan of Boyz in the Hood (not for excitement, but for a good story about a tough life). But this was the first (as I recall) and Hopper deserves a great deal of credit for that. Penn and Duvall are fantastic actors and both come through in a big way in this movie.
My personal opinion: This movie has been, by far, underrated...
Dennis Hopper's film Colors may seem like hundreds of miles removed
from his first feature as director Easy Rider, but it's made twenty
years later and it shows effectively at least two things on his part:
first, that he can express himself in material that would appear to be
a "for-hire" work, specifically with having an older, calmer version of
himself in Duvall (the kind that tries to think things through and can
be ferocious but has experience from a life of work) and Penn (the
young hot-head who you know is good but is troubled in other ways), and
secondly that he can go back to some of his earliest acting roots,
working in movies featuring rebels and gangs (not least of which Rebel
Without a Cause) and actually give them the fire and energy and
as-much-as-possible realism so desperately needed. Colors is a mature
work from a filmmaker who knows what he's doing, and will let the
actors and the mood of the streets and the temperament of the current
events (which were practically untenable in the late 80s and early 90s
in gang-banger) LA.
Matter of fact, this should have been Hopper's professional calling-card, showing that he can make a film that isn't an art-film or too experimental (Last Movie) or under the radar (Out of the Blue). Indeed you'd have to remind most people that Hopper even directed it since, frankly, he lets his stars steal the show, and rightfully so. There's not a solid plot to speak of, more-so a character study of two cops, one older one younger, who are partnered up and have to tackle the ghettos and slums, loaded with "Blue" (Crips) and "Red") (Bloods), and also the various Hispanic gangs that are not as notorious but still as powerful and dangerous.
It's a series of pieces that soon take shape into a story, but it's not even about that. It's just about following these gangs and being true to their nature: of their rites of passage (beating up the new kids and setting them off to prove themselves), their bond and codes, their can-do attitude even when they're behind bars or in hand-cuffs, and the collective wisdom that you can either talk to a cop or just run... or, another alternative, shoot. It's also about a value system and class differences; the former relating, of course, to Hodges (Duvall) and Penn, who don't see eye to eye on how to apprehend suspects or treat them. Penn's younger guy isn't a crooked cop or corrupted, but he's a hot-head, a junkie for adrenaline, while Duvall's been around the block way too many times (and even admits that he had a higher post before and is still on the streets for reasons not totally made clear) to put up with being "like a gangster" as he says.
And the class part relates to the difference between McGavin (Penn) and his supposed girlfriend, who comes from the Latino parts of the hood and has family that Hodges has come in contact with as a cop, putting them up against the wall. It's through this that we see the split between the people in Lost Angeles, and while it's not a subtle point really (and may even be one of the more cliché things in the picture), it still goes a way to try and add immediacy to the drama, and McGain's own personal conflicts on the streets. And, again, those gangs, some played by actors (Don Cheadle and Damon Wayans in early roles, Sy Richardson), others by I would assume real gang-bangers and people 'from the streets' (another thing Hopper is good at, casting real people, which he doesn't get enough credit for), that are allowed to be fleshed out and made into real people, or as real as they can be in this movie.
The filmmakers don't make us feel sympathy for the gang members, but through making them human beings as opposed to just targets and caricatures, it adds to the whole experience of being about something. Nothing here is exploited; it's a well-researched time-capsule that still holds its own years later, least as long as there are crips and bloods and other gangs and, you know, hot-headed cops with old-timer veterans. Very solid, professional film-making.
Colors First-Viewing, TV(Dennis Hopper)- Sean Penn, Robert Duvall, Don
Cheadle, Maria Conchita Alonso, Glen Plummer, Grand L. Bush, Damon
Wayans, Leon Robinson
Robert Duvall and Sean Penn star as two cops trying to fight gang violence in Los Angelos. Duvall is an old cop, who is going to retire, and Penn plays a rookie who is keen to make his presence felt on the force. Both give good performances, although Penn was clearly the highlight of the film, with an interesting character and very good performance. Robert Duvall was also good though, with a complex performance. Don Cheadle was virtually absent, was a bit of a villain, portraying a Crip gangbanger, but had very little lines, unfortunately. Maria Conchita Alonso played a woman in the ghetto that Officer McGavin (Penn) was interested in, and gave a very average performance. Other gangbangers played by Glen Plummer, Grand L. Bush, Damon Wayans and Leon Robinson, were all good in their small roles. Overall a good film depicting gang violence in LA, also had some good action sequences, and good acting. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film was the first directorial work by actor Dennis Hopper in 18 years. Like 1969's 'Easy Rider', this film was notable for its real life write the plot elements by screenwriters Michael Schiffer & Richard Di Lello. However, do to that standard of writing. It's somewhat slow in paced. There are tons of pointless boring filler, in this film. The violence action in this film is also very random, just as much as it's nudity. It really comes out of nowhere, and has little bearing to the main plot. While, most of the action scenes, are somewhat realistic in tone, however, there was at least, one scene at the beach front that really went over the top. It felt like, I was watching a different movie with its 'Lethal Weapon' style bike chase. Because of that, I couldn't say, this movie was a great film. It was too uneven. Still, the film was fine for the most part. Made in the era, before the 1992 South Central riots & many years before 2000 Rampart scandal destroy the CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) special operations unit of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The film tells the story of two CRASH cops, experienced season veteran, Officer Bob Hodges (Robert Duvall) and rookie partner, and hot-head, Officer Danny McGavin (Sean Penn) patrolling the streets of East Los Angeles, trying hard to keep the gang violence between the Bloods, the Crips, and the Hispanic street gangs under control. Without spoiling the American police procedural action crime film, too much, this movie was infamous for its highly dangerous production, as film producer Robert H. Solo hired real gang members as guardians as well as actors. Two of them were shot during filming of this film. If that wasn't enough, according to the filmmakers, shortly after the church shooting scene wrapped, a church service a short distance away actually was disrupted by gang gunfire. Things got worse for the production, as reportedly, Sean Penn was arrested on 2nd April 1987 and spent close to a month (33 days) in jail for assault after hitting an extra on the set of this film who was taking snapshots of Penn without his permission. It also didn't help that he was going through a nasty public divorce with singer/actor Madonna, where the newspapers stated allegations of domestic abuse. Despite what happen behind closed doors and his private life, Sean Penn did pretty well in this role. Although, it wasn't much of a stretch, since Penn was a total angry wild-man at this time. Robert Duvall is also alright, but his role wasn't as superb to me, as other critics saw it. I just seen it, as average at best. However, he does fully earns the hallowed term "actor's actor." Anyways, both of the main actors work well with each other, even if the whole 'bull and cows' (good cop/bad cop) gimmick seem to run them, as very unrealistic cops at the time. The supporting cast is just meh. Nothing much. It kinda sucks that they got Don Cheadle in this film, and barely used him. All, he does, is look menacing to the camera, and hardly speaks. He totally got wasted in his limited role as arch-gang leader, Rocket. I can also do, without Damon Wayans as Rocket's gang-member, T-Bone. All the comedy scenes with him, felt a little bit out of place like Courtney Gains's character, Whitey. If anybody, really shine in this film, it had to be Trinidad Silva as 21th Street gang leader, Leo 'Frog' Lopez. He was amazing as the informer. He really look like he belong in a real-life gang. It's too bad, that the actor died in 1988 in a car accident involving a collision with a drunken driver in Whittier, California, after filming this movie. I really hope for more from him. One thing that really made this film, very interesting is the odd mixer of gangsta rap music with that of classic 1960s country hits. It's weird, hearing Jaynett's 'Sally Go Around the Roses' & Willie Nelson 'Bloody Mary Morning' with the intense rap songs of Ice T's 'Colors' and Big Daddy Kane 'Raw'. It was so jarring to me. I guess, it's supposed to represented the large different between those, living in the white community and those living in the black projects of Los Angeles County in Color. However, the movie's music also shows the weird unionize of multiply ethnicities under the banner of those who choose to live, under the colors of law enforcement and those who choose to wear the colors of the street gangs. No matter what, the music for this film, kinda works for its plot; just as much as the location of LA, works for the soundtrack. You really do get the sense of gang-life and how it was like to be in the CRASH force. Nevertheless, I would love to see, how the original script that took place in Chicago and was more about drug dealing than gang members. It's just seems, more interesting. In addition to that, there is a version of the film that has an extended ending that is somewhat not checking out. Just don't watch that version, if you haven't saw the film, yet. Watch the theatrical cut. The new scenes are not that satisfying. Overall: If you love movies like 2012's 'End of Watch' or 2001's 'Training Day', you will probably love this movie. While, it's not the best cop movie out there. This somewhat excellent, powerful and gripping crime drama is still worth checking out.
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
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.
I always enjoy watching this film. Raw, and uncompromising. Great
performances by Sean Penn and Robert Duvall.
A dark, and gritty portrayal of gang life in LA, and the special cop task force who deals with them. The film is never preachy, or insulting in it's execution. Awash with violence and profanity - but it's not glorified and serves a purpose.
This movie isn't without flaws. I could have done without the drawn-out, and pointless lovemaking scene with Penn and Maria Conchita Alonso. T-Bone's arrest scene could have been explained without a feeble attempt at comedy. Also, I think "eyy hoolmes" is said about 50 times too many. I feel that these greatly undermine what is overall a solid motion picture.
If you're a fan of gritty cop/crime dramas, or of gangsta' movies, I strongly urge you to see this film.
Viewed this film a few years ago and enjoyed it the second time around. Sean Penn, (Officer Danny McGavin) was a rookie who started out knowing just how to handle the various gangs in Los Angeles and even got all hot and bothered about a nice looking gal who could Tease and Please without any problems. His old time partner was, Robert Duvall,(Bob Hodges), who was married and had a family and tried to take Danny McGavin under his wing and calm him down. Bob Hodges was about to retire and had handled the various gangs a different way that most of the other Police officers and it seemed to work out very well. Bob got all kinds of information he needed by just treating the gangs and their leaders with a certain kind of respect. The film had plenty of action, but was entirely too long for a story we have seen many times on the Big Screen. However, Duval and Penn gave outstanding performances and were great working together.
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