Band of the Hand (Paul Michael-Glazer, 1986)
I missed this (on 35mm!) as part of a Michael Mann retro back at BAM Cinematheque awhile back, so I had it on the short list to catch up with… and with me currently (and, make no mistake, joyfully) delving into the last season of Mann’s epic, trendsetting and slick 80’s crime series, featuring sock-less vice cops racing about a pastel-flavored landscape (though, admittedly, with the show turning decidedly grimmer with each ensuing season, its look and vibe moved increasingly away from that initial Floridian feel that define most of the nostalgic remembrances of the show), namely Season Five of “Miami Vice”, I decided to momentarily veer off and check out this Mann-produced effort (on a double screening with another 80’s action crime film that I’ll get to in my next write-up).
It’s a colorful, entirely unbelievably executed, 80’s right wing fantasy all the way (and Mann certainly fit right into that ideology), lit and shot in a style that screams television production, even though it was a theatrical release — though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as the credits reveal TV directing stalwart Paul Michael Glaser (you know — ‘Starsky’ of legendary 70’s buddy crime series “Starsky & Hutch” — though I always preferred the pimped out Stepin Fetchit sidekick, ‘Huggy Bear’, played by Antonio Fargas) doing the honors for what was originally conceived as a pilot by the “Miami Vice” creator himself.
A group of mostly second-rate actors (though I did really like Leon in his short stint on ‘Oz’ back in the late 90’s) do their best playing teen juvies on their way to becoming criminal lifers who get helplessly thrown into an experiment in the middle of the croc-infested Florida Everglades to learn to survive (and work together) with an intense, slightly unhinged Vietnam Vet trainer (allowing for a genuine actor and Mann fave, Stephen Lang, to join the fray, before moving on to losing his lips to one Manhuntin’ Hannibal Lecter – oh, excuse me, that would be ‘Lecktor’ in Mann’s world — later that year) in an effort to train them to be Miami’s version of a more violent (gotta fight guns with guns, after all!) Guardian Angels, protecting the streets from drug crime (represented by skeevy, new jack Fetchit versions, like the way over-the-top and underwritten crime Baron Laurence Fishburne character) in exchange for reduced sentences.
Yes, it’s silly, but it’s also kinda fun, and not without some charm (and, you gotta hand it to them, they don’t skimp on making sure lots of things get all blowed up). Far from a great Mann effort of the time (or, even a particularly good one), I’m assuming it only got made due to the clamoring studio-mania at the time over the trend-setting success of Mann’s “Miami Vice” (initial success that is – not many realize just how much the ratings of that show kept significantly dipping down and down after that first splashy season, with Mann leaving after Season Two to make the most out of his new-found prestige).
I could just imagine the meetings: “Michael, baby, you got anything else??” “Well, I got this script for a tv pilot that EVERYONE turned down.” “We’ll take it! Get shooting!”. I mean, Mann was thought of as so cool at the time even BOB DYLAN signed on for the ‘Band of the Hand’ credits theme!
Stephen Lang leading the juvies
And I’m convinced they’re trying to make a very young Lauren Holly look like porn superstar of the time Traci Lords in that poster… I mean, it completely works for me as I was one of those boy whose feverish travel through his crazed adolescence seemed to directly coincide with the emergence of that most unforgettable naughty figure of male fantasy, a little soft-bodied vixen with that simply awesome moaning she made through each of her scenes. But I digress.