Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Band of the Hand (1986)
Dorcey: How'd you get this house?
Joe: From the city. A dollar a year.
Carlos: Well you got screwed!- Al Shannon, Stephen Lang, Danny Quinn
Stars: Stephen Lang, Michael Carmine, Lauren Holly, John Cameron Mitchell, Danny Quinn, Leon, Al Shannon
Other Stars: Danton Stone, Paul Calderon, Laurence Fishburne, James Remar
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language, drug use
Run Time: 01h:49m:36s
Release Date: 2003-01-28
DVD ReviewEven though Michael Mann's Miami Vice was one of the most popular TV shows of the 1980s, I rarely hear it discussed these days without severe ridicule. The clothes and music were excessively representative of an era that seems to have aged least gracefully out of any other decade in memory. A gifted filmmaker, Mann later went on to create some of the best movies of the 1990s, including the crime masterpiece Heat and the riveting fact-based tale The Insider, which earned Mann several Oscar® nominations. Though Mann is now a highly-acclaimed feature filmmaker, no one can deny the fact that Vice was his claim to fame. While a feature-length movie of Vicenever did grace the silver screen, Band of the Hand could easily be considered the cinematic equivalent of the highly popular television series. Executive-produced by Mann, directed by Paul Michael Glaser of Starsky & Hutch fame, and made in the height of the Vice heyday, everything about this film looks, sounds, and feels like a two-hour episode of his it program.
The film begins with a frenzied introduction that shows the crimes and arrests of numerous juvenile delinquents. Several of these criminals include a gang member, a drug courier, and an arsonist-turned-murderer when he discovers his mother's drunken boyfriend beating her. This sequence is silly and generic, though simultaneously exciting and hip thanks in part to Bob Dylan's groovy theme song.
We cut to a juvenile detention hall where the youths now reside, but before I could get my bearings, the prison guards gather the offenders, ship them out to the Florida Everglades, and leave them in the middle of nowhere. Shortly thereafter, they meet a mysterious man named Joe, who is to be their leader in a bizarre sort of commando training. Under Joe's militant command, the group learns to fish, hunt wild boar, and fend off mosquitoes, but most of what they seem to achieve is a lot of yelling and arguing. Joe nourishes the group with a fine delicacy of worms and other outdoor foods; I enjoyed a hearty laugh when one adolescent exclaims, "I can't eat this! This is zoo food! I want a cheeseburger!" I seriously doubt as if their detention hall food was exactly gourmet.
One night Joe leaves the group stranded, but not before he informs them that if they can track and find him, they will have passed his test. The delinquents must now rely on each other for survival, and what transpires is pure cinema nonsense. Two of the more hostile members go from trying to kill one another to feelings of respect, while another goes from being a mute to a verbose leader. After the group passes the test, Joe sets them up in a shabby Miami homestead right in the heart of gangland. We soon learn that their boot camp was part of an experiment to moralize juvenile delinquents by breaking down their racial and gang barriers. If they are all taught to work together as a team, it will supposedly give them self-esteem and a strong sense for the value of life. Of course, in the real world, this training would likely have turned them into better criminals, but I must concede that this is only a silly movie.
The group then attempts to rejoin society as born-again good citizens, but the brutality of the street has a way of haunting them. Taunted by gangs and threatened by the local drug lord, Nestor (James Remar), the band is soon thrust back into the violence of their surroundings, only this time they fight for justice.
I do not think it will come as a huge surprise when I say that Band of the Hand is not a very good movie. The 1980s style is downright cringe-inducing at times. Yet, like a bad reality TV show, many people will be uncontrollably compelled to watch with great interest. Those who consider themselves children of the '80s, like myself, will certainly find pleasure in gawking at all of the awkward sights and sounds of the decade. The white sport jackets worn over pink tank tops, the teased hair, the spandex pants, and the Trans-Am cars all brought a smile to my face. The film is overflowing with cheesy synthesizer music as well as undeniable '80s pop classics such as Prince's Let's Go Crazy and Mister Mister's Broken Wings. The action scenes are wholly representative of the era, proving viscerally exciting but rarely showing any consequences. Gunplay and gang violence run rampant through the Miami streets, but the city seems to be mysteriously void of cops. It is only after a war-like gunfight that I heard police sirens in the background. Nonetheless, they never make it to the scene of the crime. Finally, movie buffs will enjoy watching the younger sides of now famous actors such as Lauren Holly, John Cameron Mitchell, and Laurence Fishburne. I would not recommend that one go out of their way to see this film, but anyone who grew up in the 1980s will most likely revel in the nostalgia that it offers. Consider it an R-rated version of Miami Vice. While that is not necessarily a good thing, it is not necessarily a bad thing either.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: We seem to be entering the dark ages of DVD. Three years ago, if a film was not released in its original aspect ratio, it was a rarity. Nowadays, however, this seems to be an all-too-common practice. I am not certain who truly benefits from this full-frame transfer of Band of the Hand, though it surely cannot be avid fans of the film. Other than the marred aspect ratio, the picture is decent, though fairly inconsistent. Colors are strong and fully saturated, while the outdoor daytime scenes boast a wonderfully clean aesthetic. Unfortunately, darker scenes suffer from poor shadow delineation and an overall dingy appearance. Edge enhancement, while not overly abundant, is quite distracting when evident. Although this is a noble remastering effort, the 1.33:1 ratio and a somewhat dirty quality cause the picture to appear quite dated. Ultimately, the image looks like nothing more than a 1980s television show.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: The two-channel Dolby surround track is impressive for its age. The surround channel is fairly judicious, engaging mostly for the musical numbers and a few action effects. Otherwise, the mix is quite front heavy but fully expansive with good stereo separation. Dialogue is always intelligible, though sonically thin and plagued by distortion on occasion. While nothing exceptional, the 2.0 audio track is a suitable complement to the film.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Little Nikita , New Best Friend
Extras Review: Almost as disappointing as the full-frame transfer is the lack of special features. At the very least, the Band of the Hand theatrical trailer should have been included, but instead, all we are given are two irrelevant trailers.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsIf acid-washed jeans and feathered hair are your thing, or even sound remotely familiar, Band of the Hand might but right up your alley. This is undoubtedly the most indicative 1980s-style film I have seen in quite some time. Though the full-frame transfer somewhat sours the mood, it does not entirely ruin the guilty pleasure that this film has to offer.
Brian Calhoun 2003-01-29