(48)6.71 h 59 min1988X-RayR
Set in the East L.A. barrio, the film stars Sean Penn (Mystic River) and Robert Duvall (the Godfather) as very different cops, both in age and temperament, hand-picked for the city's anti-gang campaign. As partners, they daily drive their unmarked car through the warring Los Angeles neighborhoods. Their simple code of endurance: Keep peace in the streets at any price!
Dennis Hopper
Sean PennRobert DuvallMaria Conchita Alonso
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Robert Solo
R (Restricted)
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Drug usefoul languagenuditysexual contentviolence
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3.6 out of 5 stars

48 global ratings

  1. 44% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 16% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 11% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 14% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

Arthur S. Peter 111Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2018
5.0 out of 5 starsup there with the best
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Juvenile delinquency flicks have been a staple movie genre forever, of course, but the 90's and 2000's saw a revival of the form with a spate of violent melodramas centering on gang warfare resulting from the drug trade, with most set in Los Angeles. Most of them (New Jack City, Gang-Related) were predictably exploitative, but a few were good, honest pieces of professional moviemaking that still pack a punch all these years on. Colors is, I think, one of the best. It lacks the bravura stylisation of Walter Hill's The Warriors or the operatic sweep of Taylor Hackford's Blood In, Blood Out; and it is missing the poignancy that informed Menace 2 Society or The Boyz in the Hood. Colors does, however, offer a strong narrative propelled by a strong charge of propulsive energy and fine believable performances all around (the late Trinidad Silva's perverse gangland pater familias is particularly memorable.) Add to this a some very professional cinematography and Dennis Hopper's confident direction and you have a very well-crafted entertainment that more the repays the time spent.
15 people found this helpful
alltatupReviewed in the United States on February 9, 2019
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I remember this movie from back in the day and what a racist piece of trash it was then then. It hasn't aged well: it is a rotting carcass that's too embarrassing to watch. I suppose that it continues to fulfill some fantasy about white superiority and supremacy, as well as sanctioning the police to do whatever they want to people of color.

I feel sorry for all the actors: Don Cheadle and Damon Wayans (although I can't help but suspect that he was parodying the role that they wanted him to play), Sean Penn and Robert Duvall: they all got trapped in the cesspool of Hollywood stereotyping. I'm surprised that Penn and Duvall didn't know any better than to sign on to such a blatantly racist movie. It's this kind of myth-making propaganda that fueled Reagan's dream of the incarceration of all black men...
8 people found this helpful
James SparksReviewed in the United States on October 13, 2018
4.0 out of 5 starsHistorically important
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A great period movie on gang violence in the inner city and the police department’s attempts to curtail it.

The movie made in the late 80s doesn’t glamorized the police nor does it condone the gang violence. I think it’s a balanced film on a very sensitive subject.

The two leads are great. I think this is one of the defining roles Penn played in his career. The African American cast looks like a who’s who from the 90s.

I loved the soundtrack!

This movie can be a little cliche. Especially at the end. But you have to cut it some slack, this was one of the first films to deal with gangs in America.I would say that this film is historically relevant for that reason
6 people found this helpful
Soft FursReviewed in the United States on December 13, 2018
5.0 out of 5 starsSuch a great movie that still moves me 30 years later
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I really enjoyed this when it came out and to me it still is a great movie. I would love to see a documentary done about the film itself and it's subject matter with contributions from the people involved in this film. What do they have to say about it today? Who are they today? Of course it has an excellent cast with a deep bench. I am not just looking for perspectives from the acting cast but from all the creative artists who crafted this film.
7 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on July 31, 2020
2.0 out of 5 starsBuddy cop movie where the police get to abuse people of color
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Colors came out with a lot of fanfare in 1988. It was hyped as a gritty portrayal of the gang problem in Los Angeles which was blowing up at the time due to crack. There was extra security posted at movie theaters and lot of controversy over it in the press. This movie is not about gangs though. It’s really a buddy cop film with Sean Penn and Robert Duvall. Penn is the rookie trying to over compensate for his lack of experience by playing a tough guy, while Duvall is the seasoned veteran. It actually shows Penn abusing people on the job. Rather than being some a semi-realistic view of the people in the inner city it was actually your typical Hollywood production where cops get to beat up and abuse people of color.
3 people found this helpful
Marshall stricklandReviewed in the United States on December 24, 2019
3.0 out of 5 starsNot perfect but very well done
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This film is actually about maturity and the cops and gang members are really just the backdrop or the setting for this film. Sean Penn and Robert Duvall both shine here in very solid performances, Duvall especially but a good early Sean Penn performance where he gets to show his chops. The real problem with this film is the script. While there are technically "good guys" and "bad guys" everything is portrayed with such nuance that there is no real strong antagonist and no real strong protagonist and the story/plot of finding a person responsible for a drive buy becomes almost like secondary or tertiary to the overall movie.

The movie is all about the evolution and growth of the Sean Penn character which is interesting but we don't really get to know him enough for us to care that much in the end. The film should have been more about the Duvall character but the way the script is written he doesn't go through any real growth of anything that is all Penn's character. So that's kind of a problem story wise there's not much going on for the audience to invest in. We should be seeing Penn through Duvall's character's eyes which we do get to see some of in a scene or two but it falls short. Penn is the lead and that doesn't really work it should be more about their relationship.

That being said it's a really interesting portrayal of a time and a place and it does a good job with the fairness and nuance of all of that without getting into spoilers. Every character seems pretty realistic despite some interesting acting and directing choices along the way. Most characters just lack depth is the problem. Worth watching but also at the end of the day nothing ground breaking. Just a solid movie that is realistic in its portrayal of South Central police and gang violence without being too over the top or maudlin.
3 people found this helpful
JohnReviewed in the United States on September 12, 2020
5.0 out of 5 starsBig Picture
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How to review? In my opinion I thought the movie was well done. The main point concerning gangs in LA at the time was true. To the objective observer (I.e. not prejudiced by biased thinking) the movie goes a long way in showing the way things were at the time. The joke Duvall tells his young partner about the two bulls should not be mistaken for the thought that the LAPD or any other power wanted to incarcerate all black men. This is a sad and misguided belief. He was simply attempting to get his novice partner to see the job of policing from a more mature perspective. Duvalls's character, as seen in his other statements in the movie were telling to their contrary. As a longtime vet, he saw the whole picture and could not say with certainty what was right or wrong in many cases. He was understanding of the plight of the gangbangers who were victims of their culture. He knew that they were simply acting according to the cultural norms that the hierarchy of power of the hoods and barrios in which they lived dictated.
Photography by Krish MandalReviewed in the United States on September 4, 2020
4.0 out of 5 starsTried to reflect the times.
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People are calling this movie racist. No, you don't get it do you. You didn't live in those times did you? All you newbies to this movie think in terms of the 2016-2020 mentality.

There were bad cops then, just like now. There was racism and there were severe gang problems in the inner cities. Cops were overzealous, and gang members were bad asses that didn't really care about whose life they took.

It reflects the times. The movie isn't racist. It's a reflection of what was going on then. If you didn't live through the 70's, 80's, 90's and then into the 2000's, and you're commenting on how racist this movie is, you have no idea about what life was like back then, seeing it through a 2019/2020 lens.

Is it poorly acted? Maybe in parts. Is it the greatest movie of all time? No, certainly not. But it works, and it's a good picture, and it's a social statement, that's what it was meant to be.

It's not like we've eradicated crime and gang violence. But back then, it was a lot to deal with, and this movie depicts it well.

It is actually one of my "must watch" movies for anyone who hasn't seen it, to get acquainted with some history of gang violence, and the policing of the 80s and 90s.
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