Written by / 9/19/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , , , ,

STEPHEN LANG DIRTIES-UP THE NEON-80'S IN BAND OF THE HAND

Neat Opening Credit Title Card for BAND OF THE HAND Year: 1986
Stephen Lang, the nefarious military man from AVATAR currently spooking audiences as a creepy and lethal blind war vet in DON'T BREATHE, is a natural for playing the villain...

Although he initially garnered attention as "Indian Joe" in the 1986 teenage version of THE DIRTY DOZEN titled BAND OF THE HAND – the one person who can whip a group of eclectic, hopeless juvenile convicts into shape is, of course, the film's good guy and yet, it depends on the perspective since he's not very popular at first: His narrow eyed, steel-jawed, monotone, meticulous and muscular character has all the ingredients of a determined, impenetrable heavy – but it takes one to know five, and Lang's Joe knows exactly how and where to get the reluctant, flaky bad boys changed into sturdy young men.

Stephen Lang as Indian Joe
What BAND seems to be about occurs in a flash:The survival sequence in the Everglades, including a deadly snake, a wild boar and various shots of wild cats, seems more of a breezy tour than duty...

Having been taken from lock-up to a paddy-wagon to a reed-pummeling fan boat, they enter the murky destination, all dressed up with no place to run, knee deep in mud, bickering, fighting and are initially fleshed-out by their anti-chemistry against each other: from the loudmouth to the lunatic to the maverick to the tough, silent type, it's all pretty much covered...

Sadly, right as things get interesting, we cut to a b-story involving an overlong sequence with ingenue Lauren Holly and the film's chief antagonist to Larry Fishburne's more physical, mobile heavy – that being James Remar as a gangster into black magic, an eccentric, strange element probably inserted to make Remar more menacing, which the edgy WARRIORS and 48 HRS alumni needn't any help with...

His name was Larry Fishburne, MATRIX-heads
Cutting back to the swamp-struggling main characters feels like returning from an intrusive commercial break. And by Day Two, although running scared from what they're supposed to be hunting, the boys seem as if they'd been roughing-it for a week or so (and if it had been a week, it seems more like a month). Up to this point, while the overall pace is fun and involving – especially the set-up as each individual crime, arrest and incarceration is shown – there seems to be a big chunk missing...

Lang's tough guy repose
Although it turns out the important stuff's left for the graffiti-laden slums of Miami: Taking over a Crack House (back then referred to as a building full of junkies, pimps and dealers), Lang and Gang have a dangerous fight ahead – their prime adversaries have already been introduced, and they're not alone. At this point, only one of the boys really stands out as a character apart from the group, and he wants his girl, Holly's Nikki, back – she's now a bonafide, bikini-clad gangster's moll: her story had skipped ahead as fast as the males.

Soundtrack LP featuring Bob Dylan
With a gritty, street-savvy, politician-scolding title song by Bob Dylan backed by Tom Petty's Heartbreakers (who Dylan toured with the previous year), and produced by MIAMI VICE 80's/90's crime guru Michael Mann, BAND OF THE HAND is in fact a hands-on, lean and mean tough guy machine, slightly hindered by the loud, bright neon clothes that the 1980's had "totally" veered into at the crest of the decade's midpoint: Hell, even the good bad boys are dressed to shill their multicolored era and yet, flaws aside, what was rushed in the swamplands is slightly made up for later on, when there's just-enough high-octane action during the third act, as Lang does like John Wayne in THE COWBOYS, clearing the way for a strategic crash-course finale with the people that matter most.
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