Color of Night

Color, 1988, 96 mins. 10 secs.
Directed by James Glickenhaus
Starring Peter Weller, Sam Elliott, Patricia Charbonneau, Antonio Fargas, Blanche Baker, Richard Brooks, John C. McGinley
Shout Select (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Universal (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Carlotta (Blu-ray) (France RB HD) / WS (1.85:1: (16:9), Goodtimes (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Saddled Shakedownwith a bland title openly aping the Shakedowntheme song from the previous year's Beverly Hills Cop II, this fifth feature outing for director and distributor James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator, The Soldier) is a great slice of '80s New York City action filmmaking anchored by a pair of outstanding lead performances. Though released by Universal, the production from Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment (who would soon give the world Basket Case 2 and Maniac Cop among many others) really delivers the exploitation goods far more than the studio veneer might lead you to expect.

When crack dealer Michael (Law and Order's Brooks) gets approached late at night in Central Park by a potential buyer in blue jeans, gunshots ring out and both are found lying on the ground at the scene. Only Michael survives from the gunfire exchange, and he claims the other man was a "blue jean cop" (the film's original superior title, by the way) who skims money off of criminals. Public defender and amateur Orange Julius mixer Roland Dalton (RoboCop's Weller) is assigned Michael's case as his last before going into upscale legal work to please his silver spoon fiancee, Gail (Sixteen Candles' Baker), but it turns out to be far more complicated than it appears thanks to ties to a ring of very crooked cops. Roland ends up seeking out grizzled narcotics cop and Deuce theater inhabitant Richie (Roadhouse's Elliott), right after a Shakedownscreening of The Soldier no less, and they trace the clues to a nasty drug dealer (Starsky and Hutch's Fargas) tied to the dirty cops. As Michael goes to court and ends up facing off Shakedownagainst (and becoming romantically attracted to) ex-girlfriend Susan (Manhunter's Charbonneau), he and Roland take more explosive steps to bring down the bad guys with a body count that spreads across the city.

First and foremost, Shakedown is a rousing action films with several scenes guaranteed to bring down the house including a fantastic rollercoaster fistfight that gets way, way out of control and an airplane climax that simply has to be seen to be believed. There's also a wealth of priceless footage of pre-cleanup 42nd Street at its seediest (including one action scene that still elicits gasps), Paul Bartel as a judge, and some juicy dramatic material in the courtroom scenes with Weller and Charbonneau playing off each other quite nicely. Elliott and Weller both excel here with contrasting but perfectly matched performances, with Elliott essentially bringing his familiar cowboy persona to the Big Apple with great results.

Shakedown has been available on home video steadily since the MCA Home Video days on VHS and laserdisc, including a mediocre early DVD from Goodtimes in 1998, a widescreen reissue from Universal in 2004 (with a nasty Photoshop nightmare of a cover), and a 2016 French Blu-ray from Carlotta (as Blue Jean Cop) in its short-lived Midnight Collection line. The 2018 Blu-ray from Shout Factory's ShakedownShout Select imprint is the best of the bunch by a long shot, sporting a vibrant and very pleasing HD presentation that brings all the glorious detail out of those amazing city shots. (On the downside you can clearly make out the faces of the stunt doubles for the two leads now, too!) The orgiinal film grain has been left intact, and as always it's really prevalent in Shakedownsome of the darker and more underlit shots. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 surround mix is pretty good for a late '80s B-level film, with plenty of support for the sound effects and the music selections including a couple of very decade-appropriate tunes and a score by Jonathan Elias (Vamp). Optional English subtitles are also provided. Glickenhaus is all over this disc, too, including a brief video intro to the film and a new audio commentary in conversation with Edwin Samuelson. Both of them know their NYC locales and history very well and have a solid rapport covering the logistics of pulling off those insane action scenes (including Coney Island), the gutsiness of the actors doing some of their own states, the state of crack use and Wall Street greed at the time, and the reasons he decided to get out of the business instead of packing up and moving to Los Angeles. You'll find out even more in "Shakedown Breakdown" (16m16s) with Glickenhaus giving a solid, broader overview of the film's genesis (inspired by a true story of a drug dealer who shot a cop) and the development of the film through casting and on-location production. The more tangential "Miles over the Limit" (5m12) brings Glickenhaus one more time for a fun and completely insane extended anecdote about Miles Davis that you really, really have to hear. Finally the disc closes out with the theatrical trailer (from a very dated master, in keeping with Universal's modus operandi) and a gallery (4m47s) of production stills and promotional material.

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Reviewed on August 8, 2018.