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  Band of the Hand Neon Maniacs
Year: 1986
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Stars: Stephen Lang, Michael Carmine, Lauren Holly, John Cameron Mitchell, Danny Quinn, Leon Robinson, Al Shannon, Danton Stone, Paul Calderon, Laurence Fishburne, James Remar, Tony Bolano, Frank Gilbert, Erla Julmiste, Deborah King, Bill Smitrovich
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: They are a group of young criminals who have been responsible for all sorts of crimes, from car theft to rioting in the streets and even taking a life, judged to be manslaughter. But life in a jail for delinquent boys is doing them no good, or at least that's what councillor Joe (Stephen Lang) believes, and he decides he wants to employ his particular training methods on these young and wayward minds, though that will involve some pretty drastic tutoring. The authorities agree to allow it, and so it is that soon the youths are sailing across the Florida Everglades to meet Joe, not having any idea what he has in mind...

The producer of this was significant, because if this seemed like an extended Miami Vice episode for teenagers, there was a reason for that, and he was Michael Mann here apparently guiding director Paul Michael Glaser to render the movie as close to the style of that hit eighties television show as possible, neon and soundtrack album concerns and all. Glaser of course was no stranger to hit TV shows, he having been the former half of Starsky and Hutch, but when the acting career in movies didn't really take off, his other plan to become a director certainly did, with The Running Man the cheesetastic jewel in the crown of his big screen canon.

Mind you, Band of the Hand was just as tacky, although with a sheen of stylish gloss that Glaser and Mann applied to the efforts that could convince its target audience this was a proper movie which somehow rose above the low budget nature of the plot, one which took Lord of the Flies as its touchstone then halfway through transformed into - what else? - a vigilante flick, this being the decade where it appeared half of the United States were taking up arms to wipe the scum off the streets. Or maybe it was just Charles Bronson confronting them all on his own and it just seemed as if unruly gangs were being mown down by concerned citizens left, right and centre.

Anyway, before we reached that stage the boys had to be coached in survival techniques out in the middle of nowhere by the cheerless Joe, all the better to learn self respect and respect for others. There follows many scenes of the band arguing with one another especially the rival gang members Ruben (Michael Carmine) and Moss (Leon Robinson, who would drop the surname later) who are at loggerheads, but Joe's firm but fair guidance manages to surprise the boys that they can actually get along. Worth mentioning was the weirdo kid who killed his stepfather was played by John Cameron Mitchell, who would go on to be the star and director of transsexual musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Meanwhile drugs dealer Carlos (Danny Quinn) is wondering what happened to his girlfriend Nikki (Lauren Holly), the answer being she is now pimped by gangster Nestor (James Remar) back in Miami, so our plot takes shape as he proves the big boss our heroes have to conquer, as all the while the soft rock blares on the soundtrack, with the title theme by the man all the kids were listening to in 1986, Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan?! Once the band had returned to the city, Joe sets them up in a house in a rough part of town (it even has an extended family already squatting in it) which they proceed to paint in decade-defining pastels of yellow and pink and set about improving the community. In effect, once Laurence Fishburne's mean ol' gang leader tries to intimidate them, that means arming themselves and starting a war with the criminals, a great way to make things safer on the streets there, Band of the Hand. It climaxes with an assault on Nestor's new drug factory where suddenly the band (and Nikki) have become a crack combat unit in more ways than one. Junk, but slick, easy to watch junk. Music by Michael Rubini.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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