Sony // 1986 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // August 22nd, 2003
This title has nothing to do with Jay's reference to "The Band of the Hand" in Chasing Amy. However, that might have been an improvement.
Here's a great idea for reforming the juvenile justice system. Take a handful of the most hardened youthful criminals (who all look to be about 25 years old) and entrust them to the care of an ex-Marine who has no training at all in criminal justice. Have him take them to an isolated spot in the Everglades and teach them survival skills, including how to spear a wild pig. Make sure you give them just the right survival equipment, including one of those Rambo knives that were so popular during the 1980s (the kind my dad would never let me buy), because these violent youthful offenders would never use it against each other. Once they have learned to survive in the wilderness, they will naturally be rehabilitated and ready to release into Miami. Once they get there, the next natural course of action will be to involve them in a firefight against the local pimps and drug dealers in an effort to save the neighborhood.
That's probably not a good policy suggestion, and it's not much better as an idea for a movie. Band of the Hand starts out as Survivor: The Everglades (before anyone thought to pretend that it was "reality"), and then ends up as a pseudo-teen episode of The A-Team. Along the way there is a subplot about a girlfriend of one of our young felons who winds up in the clutches of a local druglord-cum-voodoo shaman, and another scintillating plot thread about government funding for this unique teen rehab program. We also get treated to an amazing array of racial stereotypes; at one point, while trying to survive in the swamps, the lone black prisoner actually wishes he could dine on black-eyed peas and rice. He and the token Latino character wear clownishly absurd clothing and continually engage each other in fisticuffs while the white guys in the group are far too level-headed for such nonsense. As a special treat, Laurence Fishburne (credited here as simply "Larry" Fishburne) shows up as Cream, a local pimp and drug dealer.
For some unfathomable reason, Columbia TriStar has chosen to release Band of the Hand in a full-frame only edition. The shot compositions do not look disrupted or chopped up, so I'm going to speculate that this is probably an open-matte transfer rather than a hack-and-scan job. Picture quality is a lot better than I expected; interior shots in particular are crisp and clear, with a surprising amount of detail and good shadow definition. Colors are vibrant and lifelike throughout. Exterior shots show a little less detail, and look excessively noisy/grainy at times. Complex textures such as the tree leaves and other fauna on the island tend to show a wicked digital shimmer at times.
Audio is presented in a Dolby 2.0 Surround mix that does a surprisingly good job of conveying ambient sounds. It was convincing enough that my cat spent the entire movie looking into one of my surround speakers in a pose highly reminiscent of the dog in the old RCA logo.
Extra content is limited to two theatrical trailers, neither of which is for Band of the Hand. On a minor positive note, the trailer for the Mia Kirshner teen exploitation flick New Best Friend is presented in widescreen, the only item on this disc to be properly framed.
As a final interesting bit of trivia, the great Bob Dylan is an unindicted co-conspirator in this mess, as he sings the title song on the soundtrack, backed up by none other than Tom Petty's vaunted Heartbreakers. That, however, is not reason enough to join this Band.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated R