Generally favorable reviews - based on 15 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 15
  2. Negative: 1 out of 15
  1. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    A solidly crafted depiction of some current big-city horrors and succeeds largely because of the Robert Duvall-Sean Penn teaming as frontline cops.
  2. It's an exhilarating sparring match between Duvall's workmanlike fine-tuning and Penn's raw energy. [15 Apr 1988]
  3. But conventional though the patterns are, the dialogue, in black and Latino lingo, is topically hot and is heated further by contemporary street naturalism, which in fact is less "natural" than consciously theatrical; so the familiarity of the story is disguised by the crackle of the production. [16 May 1988]
  4. 75
    A special movie - not just a police thriller, but a movie that has researched gangs and given some thought to what it wants to say about them.
  5. 75
    Even and assured, Colors may not descend to the sloppy, indulgent depths of ''Easy Rider'' and ''The Last Movie,'' but neither does it rise to the delirious, dangerous heights of those films. [15 Apr 1988]
  6. There's hardly an original shot in the picture, and the screenplay ignores all opportunities to explore the patterns of poverty and racism that contribute to mob behavior. [22 Apr 1988]
  7. Reviewed by: Judy Stone
    The only scene that takes a stab at saying something about the root causes of the violence is the weakest. At a poorly attended community meeting called by the police to urge residents to speak up when they witness a crime, one black Vietnam veteran angrily mentions the lack of jobs. [15 Apr 1988]
  8. 75
    Sean Penn and Robert Duvall basically played the Two Faces of Dennis: hyper young firebrand and cautious older lion.
  9. Though it all comes together, most tragically, at the conclusion, Colors is less notable for its plot than for its chilling urgency and its sense of pure style. [15 Apr 1988, p.C4]
  10. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    At 120 minutes, Colors is one of the longest cop dramas in movie history, and all the clichés are packed into the second hour. It fades in the stretch - and so may too many moviegoers. [15 Apr 1988]
  11. Reviewed by: Hal Hinson
    The movie lacks a sure sense of purpose and direction, and, watching it, you can't help but feel that Hopper, by stepping back and refusing to assert his own point of view, has on some essential level abdicated his responsibility as a director. [15 Apr 1988]
  12. Narrative continuity and momentum have never been among Hopper's strong points, and this time the choppiness of the storytelling diffuses the dramatic impact without offering a shapely mosaic effect (as in [his] previous films) to compensate for it.
  13. Reviewed by: Staff (Non Credited)
    Colors has a tentative, ambivalent feel to it--as if Hopper merely considered himself a hired gun who should avoid imposing too personal a vision on the material.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Along with other cast members, Penn takes ages registering his stares and scowls, until the movie is finally not about gangs but about actors' attitudes. Dressed up in '80s street slang, this is a '60s exercise in Method excess. [18 Apr 1988]
  15. Without complexity to its characters, with little balance and without a hint of the personal, family or community issues involved, Colors becomes a movie that never has to ask "Why?"--a vivid, noisy shell of a film filled with eager young actors rattling along on the surface of a lethally important subject. [15 Apr 1988]

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