The film opens up telling you not much of anything about the leads beyond their mission, then proceeds to meander along the goings-on of East L.A., as seen by both the cops and the gangs, and does so emptily, doing little to truly flesh out its characters, and not even having enough action to compensate for the lack of depth, like other police dramas of this type. Of course, outside of that, this is more of the same as a police drama, putting in just enough twists for you to better notice the tropes that ultimately make this a predictable, almost manufactured-feeling effort, despite an ambition which might not even be just. There is a fair deal of intrigue to this story on paper, and in execution, it is done plenty of justice, but at the end of the day, this isn't an especially meaty story concept, and it grows harder and harder to deny this the more the film drags along. Clocking in at two hours, this film outstays its welcome, and more so than you might guess, even with all of my complaints about this narrative's natural shortcomings, as it goes packed with so many layers and shifts in focus that storytelling gets to be seriously uneven, - if not episodic in feel - when it's not packed with so much do-little material that the storytelling gets to be borderline monotonous. Before too long, the film gets to be just plain aimless, meandering along with pacing and structuring so disjointed that it has to be seen in order to be believed as a blow to entertainment value and sense of momentum almost as serious as cold spells in direction which range from bland to dull. The final product left me a little cold, and although it is more inspired than I expected in a number of ways, it's also flimsier than I expected, ultimately falling flat as yet another somewhat forgettable police thriller. With that said, the final product entertains enough to get you by, or at least Dennis Hopper does.
There are plenty of areas in which Dennis Hopper, as director, doesn't seem to have much of an idea as to what he's doing, what with the meandering, unfocused storytelling, but that directorial thoughtfulness can be commended for its being somewhat unique in the context of a film of this type, and for hitting moments of effectiveness which provide glimpses into what could have been. If nothing else, the subtle engagement value holds you over until Hopper delivers on some surprisingly thrilling action sequences to offer heights in a liveliness which rarely falls so considerably that you can't get some sort of a grip of the value of this story concept. This may be somewhat thin subject matter which has been done time and again, but through all of the conventions and natural shortcomings, in addition to all of the convoluted bloatings, there stands a promising portrait on gang violence, and police actions against it. Michael Schiffer's writing more-or-less obscures the potential of this film, it gets to be so flimsy, with conventions and issues in focus and pacing, as well as other issues to meet some undeniable strengths, which range from occasions of memorable wit, to moments of convincing effectiveness in a gutsy portrayal of police procedural and gang affairs. There are some surprises of uniqueness and interesting thoroughness in this drama, yet outside of that, there's not much to compliment in this still-adequately engaging affair, carried about as much as anything by the performances. It is ultimately the underwritten performances which keep most consistent in this film, and even then, there are some weak supporting players, but only a few, who can be forgotten next to the charisma of and chemistry between Sean Penn and Robert Duvall which never fail to hold your attention. The engaging efforts of the leads may be challenged by the many shortcomings of the film, yet they most recurrently represent the inspiration that goes into making the film reasonably engaging, with some solid highlights to accompany more than a few lowlights.
Bottom line, little is said about the characters, and about a little uniqueness is placed into the aimlessly overdrawn, uneven and often blandly cold handling of a story of limited consequence, but not such little consequence that highlights in action, direction, writing and acting don't secure Dennis Hopper's "Colors" as a serviceable, if often limp study on the police's and L.A. gangs' brutal interactions amongst themselves and with each other.
2.5/5 - Fair