Dennis Hopper was one of the pioneers of independent filmmaking with his first 3 films Easy Rider, The Last Movie and his under-seen punk gem Out of the Blue. He was basically blacklisted from directing because of his notorious intake of booze and drugs, Out of the Blue was a totally independent film and was his first directorial effort in 10 years and it took him another 8 years till he had a hit as a director and that was Colors. It can also be called to some extent as one of the first “hood” films which came out of the burgeoning hip-hop scene and the rise of gang relation violence mostly in the East and South Central areas of Los Angeles.
The viewpoint where you see the gang violence is through the eyes of two cops, the older Bob “Uncle Bob” Hodges (Robert Duvall) is teamed with the young rookie cop Danny McGavin (Sean Penn) and they have different approaches on how to deal with the gang members. Bob has a rapport with the gangs but Danny has a more antagonistic approach which brings him notoriety with the gangs. They quickly bond but the escalating gang crime rate complicates matters.
It’s interesting to think this film predated the more famous Boyz n the Hood by 3 years which is more of a coming of age film set against the same backdrop of gang related crime in South Centre told through a black perspective. That film is often considered to have kick off the boom of “hood” films in the ’90s but I think it can really be traced back to Colors. It’s just as gritty and has two standout performances from its leads and an early supporting role from Don Cheadle. Hopper really captures that the streets of late ’80s in East and South Centre L.A as well as any young black filmmaker did after him which might be down to his background in photography.
Colors remains a document of its time that rivals any hood film that came in its wake, it takes what could have been glossy take of what was happening in East and South Centre L.A. Hopper took to the streets and crafted one of the best films he directed in his interesting and varied directorial career and Duvall is in his prime and a young Penn gives one of the strongest performances of his early career. The disc includes some deleted scenes but the director’s cut couldn’t be released because the deleted scenes were in too rough a shape to be inserted into the final film. The disc also includes interviews with screenwriter Michael Schiffer (who originally wrote it in set in Chicago not L.A) and Ex-LAPD officer Dennis Fanning who was a technical advisor on the film.
Crime, Drama | USA, 1988 | 18 | 24th August 2015 (UK) | Second Sight |Dir.Dennis Hopper | Sean Penn, Robert Duvall, Maria Conchita Alonso,Don Cheadle,Randy Brooks | Buy:Colors [Blu-ray]