Colors (1988) from Tuna

Colors (1988) stars Robert Duvall as a seasoned LAPD officer a year from retirement, and Sean Penn as his greenhorn partner. They are working on a special anti-gang task force in the Watts district of Los Angeles. The film was directed by Dennis Hopper. The rival gangs and the police/sheriffs department are depicted as basically similar, hence the title of the film.

The crips and the bloods have their colors and rivalry, and the LAPD and LA County Sheriffs have their colors and rivalry. While the film is mostly a buddy flick about Penn and Duvall, it also says a lot about the nature of gangs, and of violence.  The film is far more than just another cop film, and delivers many opinions on the why of gangs, as well as the who and the how. 

Duvall was superb, as was Penn. 


Maria Conchita Alonzo, as Penn's love interest, shows her breasts in a dark sex scene with Penn,

an unknown provides a lengthy full frontal in broad daylight during a drug bust

and someone named Annie-Joe shows her breasts in bed with her boyfriend just before and just  after the police shoot him.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no major features

Scoop's notes:

A lot has happened in the intervening thirteen years, and "Colors" seems to show its age. Compared to some of today's films, films like this and Fort Apache seem like quiet reflections on a quaint, more tranquil past. From the perspective of its own time, it was a much fiercer movie, and was considered gritty and realistic. It was the first film I can recall from a major studio that tried to analyze gang psychology with an analytical eye, and without the patina of mythic romance that made earlier gang films as unrealistic as West Side Story.

It took Monty Python to tell us that you could easily identify the king in the middle ages, because he was the only one not covered with shit. It took Colors to show us that gang members weren't really good dancers with cool aviator jackets.

Because it was fair, and tried to analyze the social circumstances that led kids into gang membership, as well as the hostility from officialdom that crystallized their anti-social attitudes, many people felt that the film "justified" the gangs. Not so. It tried to tell the truth. The gangs sometimes provided for the needs of the members when other societal institutions had failed them. 

The Critics Vote


The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.3 
  • With their dollars ... it was a success, with $46 million domestic gross, and much discussion generated about the film.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, I say B-.  Even if you don't usually enjoy cop films, you might be intrigued by this one. 

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