Band of the Hand was released in 1986 at the height of the TV show "Miami Vice"'s popularity, and executive produced by Michael Mann, that show's creator. It was directed by actor/director Paul Michael Glaser. I remember seeing it advertised somewhat prominently but had never seen it until now, but researching this on the internet shows that its theatrical release was not too successful.
The plot concerns a group of five juveniles (Michael Carmine, John Cameron Mitchell, Danny Quinn, Leon Robinson and Al Shannon) who end up in prison together after committing crimes such as murder, drug dealing and fighting. The movie introduces each of them in the beginning first showing their crimes and then their prison bookings. After each getting into some further trouble in prison, they are pulled aside and all taken out to the Everglades.
There they are put through an unusual training program by a tough military-type guy named Joe (Stephen Lang) where they learn some survival skills like hunting and making weapons. When they get good enough Joe leaves them to fend for themselves telling them to try and track him down later. While losing most of their clothes in the process, they find his hiding place and are told they've "made it."
They're then taken to Miami (surprise, surprise) and moved into a run-down building in a tough neighborhood where most of the buildings are pink. They fix the place up, painting 80s designs all over and get themselves moved in and ready to clean up the neighborhood, fight crime and all that good stuff. Problem is that Cream (Larry Fishburne, before he started going by Laurence), the local drug-pusher/pimp/all-around badass, doesn't like their idea so he and his buddies try to run them out.
While the 70s were WAY over by the time this came out, its general attitude calls back to the cheesy action B-movies from that era updated with 80s style. I found most of the performances, especially Fishburne's, over-the-top and most of the movie unintentionally funny. The clothing styles and buildings were amusing to look at and proved just how dated the 80s have gotten. The movie also features an interesting mix of music- the title song is sung by Bob Dylan with Tom Petty's Heartbreakers band. A Prince song shows up in a dance club, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear a song by the new wave group Shriekback in another scene. Later, I busted out laughing when Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings" played over a love scene between one of the delinquents and his girlfriend (Lauren Holly).
Band of the Hand is presented in 16x9 format at about a 1.85 aspect ratio. As with most of Sony's other 16x9 transfers, there is a slight black border around all four sides of the screen when viewed on equipment with no overscan. This movie was issued on DVD in 2003 only in 4x3 format, so glad to see that this has been corrected even through a DVD-R release.
Maybe I've gotten spoiled having watched mostly Blu-Ray discs recently, but I found the overall picture quality quite lacking. Not awful, but could have been much better. Some compression artifacts are visible, and there appears to be a bit of edge-enhancement in some places as well. Some flaws I could not tell whether they were simply inherent in the limits of the DVD format. A Blu-Ray release certainly would have been preferable, but I guess we should just be thankful of the upgrade from the old 4x3 disc.
Audio is in 2-channel Dolby Digital. The soundtrack isn't too remarkable by today's standards but I probably would've been impressed if I had first watched it on the old VHS Hi-Fi when it was first released. There are a lot of rock and pop songs accompanying the movie along with gunshots and other action sounds in the front. Surrounds are used rather minimally.
There are no subtitles or closed-captions on this disc.
Absolutely nothing. There is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment intro and copyright warning, then the movie starts (which I personally prefer). No menu comes up if you hit the Menu button, but the movie has been chaptered logically. The only thing I really object to is that the movie starts playing again after it ends; the player should go into Stop mode. A movie shouldn't automatically play over and over like an 8-track tape.
The disc comes in a keepcase with no inserts. The original poster is used for the front cover, which looks much better than the newer cover design used on the old 4x3 DVD release. There is one still from the movie on the back cover along with a synopsis and credits. The disc label is white with the title art printed in black.
Band of the Hand is a definite guilty pleasure I missed the first time around, and I will watch and laugh at it many times in the future. I'll pick up the soundtrack album too if I can ever find it. I don't know the particular cost advantages of DVD-Rs as opposed to standard pressed discs; I personally feel that it makes legitimate studio product look more comparable to illegal bootlegs, but if it comes down to taking it this way or not getting this movie at all, I'll take it. Recommended for anyone who misses the 80s or just enjoys a mindless action movie.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.