Features and Columns · Movies

Shout Select Fights Russians, Crips, and Bloods With ‘Red Dawn’ and ‘Colors’

By  · Published on March 17th, 2017

We take a look at new Blu-rays of two ’80s classics.

Shout! Factory’s relatively young collectors label, Shout Select, is something of an odd duck. This is less of a criticism than an observation as their releases so far bear no real discernible through line. We’ve gotten well-deserved Blu-rays of eagerly awaited ’80s classics like To Live and Die in LA, Road House, and Midnight Run, but the label has also released/announced titles like Death of a Salesman, The Chinese Connection, and Simon Pegg’s forgettable 2012 film, A Fantastic Fear of Everything. So yeah, there’s something of an odd inconsistency across the catalog.

For now though we’re here to discuss their latest releases, two ’80s films of varying acclaim and renown ‐ John Milius’ Red Dawn and Dennis Hopper’s Colors.

Red Dawn (1984)

A small town in Colorado begins its day like any other until strangers drop from the sky. Soviet and Cuban military forces parachute onto the high school’s football field and start shooting adults and students alike. In the chaos of the town falling under attack a group of teens ‐ Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, and others ‐ hop into a pickup truck and head for the hills. The town is quickly occupied, and while the teens find relative safety camping in the woods they decide they have no choice but to fight back.

The “what if?” scenario of a foreign military force invading the United States in modern times is a fascinating one as most people think the next big war will be decided with nukes, and it’s one we rarely see on the big screen. (Seriously, there’s this, Chuck Norris’ Invasion USA, and…?) While missiles and urban targets are mentioned here the focus of John Milius’ (Conan the Barbarian) action epic ‐ scripted by Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) ‐ is the small-scale action centered on a remote American town. While still far-fetched, the locale and setup allow for enough suspension of disbelief to make the action and events carry some degree of realistic drama.

It helps that the action is pretty damn solid too with gun fights, heavy artillery, and impressive amounts of destruction occurring on a fairly regular basis. It’s set in Colorado, but the New Mexico filming locales offer as beautiful a landscape as you could want as we move from fall into a snow-covered winter.

We don’t get much in the way of character development, and the simplicity of that end result is that the film never really manages to become more than a basic action movie. I’d argue the novelty of Red Dawn’s plot elevates it enough above the generic fray, but I also acknowledge that part of the film’s appeal comes from my memories of seeing it in the theater as a 13 year old. It’s exactly the kind of movie that spoke to teen me as the film’s youthful leads got to shoot guns, save the day, and hang out with Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey.

Shout Select’s new Blu-ray uses a previous master so if you’ve seen the last Blu-ray release then you know what to expect here ‐ a solid, if unspectacular picture and audio presentation. The disc includes the trailer as well as the following special features:

Red Dawn [Collector's Edition] [Blu-ray]

Colors (1988)

A small L.A.P.D. anti-gang unit is tasked with tackling the city’s rising tide of gang violence, and it only gets more complicated when a brash young cop (Sean Penn) joins the squad and is partnered with a surly veteran (Robert Duvall). The pair hit the streets and face a never-ending parade of criminals and their victims.

Dennis Hopper’s fourth film as director ‐ comfortably saddled between two of his more forgettable titles in Out of the Blue and Catchfire ‐ is something of a time capsule-look at the ticking time bomb that was Los Angeles leading up the the Rodney King beating and eventual riots in the early ’90s. It was a controversial release too at the time as theaters and authorities were concerned about gang violence breaking out at screenings.

While much of the film’s hype was around those real-world issues, the film itself is actually far less of a powder keg narratively-speaking. The plot is simply cops on one side and gang members on the other with minimal effort made towards the familiar mismatched partners shtick. A more plot-focused take on similar themes can be found in the superior Dark Blue, but what Colors lacks in story in mostly makes up for in action and casting.

Hopper’s direction moves between star moments with the leads, both of whom give solid albeit predictable performances, and some down in the trenches street action including foot chases, shoot-outs, and walk-throughs of scenes post-violence. Cast-wise the film also marks early appearances for Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans, and others. All of it works to make Colors an entertaining, by-the-numbers action/drama worth a watch for fans of Penn and/or Duvall.

Shout Select’s new Blu-ray includes an unrated cut incorporating extra footage from the international version and a previous unrated edition. The disc includes two new interviews.

Colors (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]

Related Topics:

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.