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MGM Studios DVD presents
Colors (1988)

"You want to get into this now?"
- Officer Danny McGavin (Sean Penn)

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: November 30, 2001

Stars: Robert Duvall, Sean Penn
Other Stars: Maria Conchita Alonso, Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans
Director: Dennis Hopper

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, violence, drug-related content)
Run Time: 01h:59m:38s
Release Date: October 02, 2001
UPC: 027616867711
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-C+B D-

DVD Review

Question: What is Colors? Answer: Dennis Hopper's (apparently successful) attempt at regaining critical respect as a director. Question: What does the movie have going for it? Answer: Robert Duvall, Sean Penn, and Dennis Hopper. Question: What does the movie have against it? Answer: A sketchy plot that takes too long to move into gear, and by the time it does, the film ends, tying up a lot of loose ends quickly and glibly. Question: What's the ultimate result? Answer: A well directed, well acted film that is worth seeing at least once, despite its faults.

Hopper's 1988 drama stars Robert Duvall as Corporal Bob Hodges, who works on the LAPD gang squad. He is saddled with a new partner—hotshot rookie Officer Danny McGavin (Sean Penn). McGavin wants to bust every gang member he can find, while Hodges thinks he should create relationships with some of the mid-level gang members, and gain their trust, in hopes that they will eventually lead him to the higher ups. The two philosophies, and the two men, clash again and again, and we see that each idea has its merits and drawbacks. This plays out against the backdrop of a gang war between the Crips and the Bloods that threatens to tear a deep gash into parts of Los Angeles.

There is a lot to admire about Colors. Dennis Hopper returns to a certain level of excellence with this film that he hadn't achieved since 1969. His direction is rock solid, and shows that he is under appreciated, at least on a technical level. Aside from Hopper, Robert Duvall is easily the best this movie has to offer. His performance resonates with the audience. From the moment he appears on screen, you know this is the character that you will sympathize with all the way through. Sean Penn turns in a more by-the-numbers performance, coming nowhere near the heights we know he is capable of. Still, Penn's lesser work is still better than most actors' best, and therefore still quite enjoyable.

But while Colors has a lot going for it, it also has a lot working against it. The story takes far too long in developing the characters and setting. By the time the audience feels invested in anyone's story other than Duvall's, the film is almost over. The result is an ending that feels rushed. A lot of storylines have to get tied up rather quickly, and sometimes so quickly that it leaves the audience unsatisfied. Also, Sean Penn's romance with Maria Conchita Alonso's character is simply unrealistic. Their romance doesn't get much screen time, and too much is stuffed into each of their scenes together. Also, through no fault of its own, the film nows sounds dated because of its late 1980s' music score, which comes with some of the worst synth sounds in history.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Colors is a gritty movie. Still, I wasn't prepared for the sheer amount of grain on this transfer. At time, it looked like Duvall's head was floating in a sea of grain. The colors of Colors looked dull, but I'm almost positive that was the director's intent. Some of the dark scenes appeared too dark. Not a very impressive transfer at all.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio fares better than the video, as the Dolby 2.0 mix actually sounds pretty beefy. The car chases and explosions had a rumble to them that added to the excitement, and all the dialogue was clear. So was the score, which, depending on your point of view, might be unfortunate.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: They've given us a theatrical trailer, and nothing else.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Slightly dated and flawed in other ways, Colors is still a movie that manages to grip its audience from time to time. Considering the good direction, Robert Duvall's great performance, and the influence the film has had on later gangland movies, Colors is not one to skip. However, its faults mean it's also not a keeper. Rent it and appreciate the good stuff.


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