New York Times - 04/15/1988
"...Fierce, rollicking....Nothing about COLORS is ordinary..."
Entertainment Weekly - 08/05/1994
"..This terse, violent LA cop story reek[s] of street cred..." -- Rating; B
Variety - 04/13/1988
"...COLORS is a solidly crafted depiction of some current big-city horrors....Excellent work from director Dennis Hopper..."
Total Film - 11/01/2000
"...A surprisingly intelligent take on the LA badlands..."
After the events of the previous decade in Los Angeles, this 1988 film about L.A. street gangs as seen through the eyes of the LAPD represented a serious effort to throw some light on the appalling carnage of that world in which, for example, 400 gangbangers were killed in 1987, the year the film was in production. It stars Robert Duvall as Mike Hodges and Sean Penn as Danny McGavin, veteran/rookie cop partners attached to CRASH, the LAPD's gang-supression unit. Hodges has been working South Central for years and has the gangbangers' respect for his low-key, quid pro quo demeanor. Despite his partner's admonitions, McGavin wants to play Rambo, bringing the hammer down on gang members at every opportunity. Ultimately the rage that drives the younger man destroys his relationship with his girlfriend, Louisa Gomez (Maria Conchita Alonso), and raises questions as to whether he should even be allowed to wear a badge. While considerable attention is paid to the complicated rubrics of gang culture, the gangbangers remain shadowy, nearly anonymous figures, especially compared to later portrayals. COLORS is a solid film, featuring superb performances by Penn and Duvall, excellent photography by Haskell Wexler, and a killer soundtrack.
An examination of L.A.'s gang problem, framed as a cop drama, COLORS stars Robert Duvall as Mike Hodges and Sean Penn as Danny Gavin, members of the LAPD's gang-control CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) unit. Paired as a team, veteran Hodges tries to teach explosive rookie Gavin that a laid-back style is more effective in dealing with gangbangers than his macho, take-no-prisoners approach. But, as usual, the younger man chooses to learn the hard way.
Shot on location in various areas of Los Angeles County, including Watts, Carson, Venice, and the San Pedro waterfront.
Hopper persuaded studio executives to switch the location from Chicago to L.A. since he was seeing drive-by shootings not far from his house in Venice. He also insisted on doing research with the gangs and included a number of actual gang members in the film.
The director's cut originally ran 127 minutes but was cut for a theatrical running time of 120 minutes. Some video versions feature restored footage.