Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
Released on: January 10th, 2017.
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Cast: Leo Garen, Jack Baran, Laurence Fishburne, James Remar, Danny Quinn
Year: 1986 Purchase From Amazon
Paul Michael Glaser’s feature film directorial debut, the 1986 Michael Mann production Band Of The Hand, starts out in a Dade County correctional facility for minors. Here five troublemakers – Ruben (Michael Carmine), J.L. (John Cameron Mitchell), Carlos (Danny Quinn), Moss (Leon Robinson) and Dorcey (Al Shannon) are taken from their cells and shipped out to the middle of the everglades. Here they find themselves under the watchful eye of a man named Joe (Stephen Lang). His mission? To teach them to survive in the swamp, to learn some self-respect and to get them to give a damn! Their training takes a while but once they’ve successfully fought off a wild boar and learned how to use a compass, he takes them back to Miami for the real test.
Once they arrive, Joe brings them into Little Havana and introduces them to their new home – an abandoned building inhabited by junkies and Haitian refugees. At first they push back but soon enough, they start turning things around and cleaning the place up. From there, they move out to the park across the street and get rid of the junkies hanging out there. All of this brings the group to the attention of Cream (Laurence Fishburne), an enforcer for Carlos’ former boss, a cocaine kingpin named Nestor (James Remar). As Joe and his team do their best to work together and clean up the neighborhood they soon learn that Nestor and his thugs don’t intend to take this lying down.
Shot entirely on location in and around Miami Beach, Band Of The Hand is, visually speaking at least, a pretty interesting time capsule, presenting a cinematic snapshot of eighties-era Florida. This means that we get the flamboyant fashions and neon colors made popular by executive producer Mann’s famous series Miami Vice, but so too do we get some of the city’s real life problems – drugs, refugees, racial tensions and crime. The movie also features some great footage of the Florida swamp lands, taking us deep into the Everglades for the lengthy training exercises that the boys are put through in the first third of the movie. This gives the later part of the movie, the part that takes place in the city, some interesting contrast with the first part. It also works thematically within the storyline itself – the boys go out into the wild to prepare themselves for the dangers of the jungle that waits for them back home.
The direction from Glaser (better known as Dave Starsky from Starsky & Hutch!) is pretty solid. There’s a good eye for action here and even at almost two hours in length the movie feels paced right. The performances are also quite good. Each of the five kids has his own distinct personality and it’s interesting to see them warm to Joe, who is well played by Stephan Lang (who recently played the blind man in 2016’s Don’t Breathe). Also recognizable here are a young Laurence Fishburn, appropriately cocky as the gun-toting thug, and James Remar, well cast as a coke sniffing narcissistic in charge of keeping the blow flow moving steady onto the streets. While the plot might not be particularly realistic (in fact it’s remarkably farfetched) and the ending a little rushed, Band Of The Hand is otherwise solid action movie entertainment.
Band Of The Hand debuts on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment on a 25GB disc in MPG-2 encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. While a newer scan/encode probably would have yielded more impressive results, for the most part the picture looks pretty nice. The mid-eighties Miami color scheme pops quite nicely. There are some mild scratches and spots noticeable here and that telecine wobble that occurs during the opening credits is hard to miss, but skin tones look good and the film is free of any obvious noise reduction, showing nice, natural film grain throughout. Detail and texture are quite strong here as well. The transfer also boasts good black levels and accurate skin tones.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional English SDH provided. There are no alternate language audio or subtitle tracks provided on the disc. While obviously a lossless option would have been preferable, this track is problem free. Dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion.
There are no extras on the disc, just a static menu that allows you to select ‘play’ and that’s it. There is, however, some keen reversible cover art provided with this release.
The Final Word:
Band Of The Hand might not be the most realistic action film ever committed to film, in fact, it’s fairly ludicrous but it sure is a lot of fun, particularly if you have an affinity for its Florida settings and 80s aesthetic. Mill Creek’s Blu-ray release is barebones and uses lossy audio but it does look quite good and it’s hard to argue with the price point.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!