Nowadays, John Cameron Mitchell is known as an increasingly accomplished filmmaker, whose excellent “Rabbit Hole” can be currently viewed on Amazon Instant Video (and hits DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday). But 25 years ago today, the guy who broke through with “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” saw one of his first major roles debut on the big screen. Opening April 11, 1986, “Band of the Hand” would finish the weekend #3 at the box office, just behind popular mainstays “The Money Pit” and “Police Academy 3: Back in Training.”
So how is it that I never heard of it? For one thing, I was likely too focused on “Crittters,” which also debuted that weekend (and only reached #6 on the chart). Also, it’s not quite the memorable classic, not even a cult favorite. But discovering its existence and easily watching it on streaming video at Crackle, I for some reason feel better for it. It’s not a good movie by any means, but it’s a time capsule-level curiosity for anyone interested in the ’80s.
Watch it free (with commercials) after the jump.
Directed by “Starsky and Hutch” star Paul Michael Glaser, produced by Michael Mann and sold on their “Miami Vice” work, “Band of the Hand” is also set in South Florida. “Avatar”‘s Stephen Lang plays an ex-Marines soldier turned social worker with a new program that takes juvenile criminals (including Mitchell) into the Everglades for lessons in survival and racial harmony. The first half of the movie is like “The Breakfast Club” meets “Down by Law,” but eventually the new friends return to the streets of Miami, where they take on a pimp/drug dealer played by Laurence Fishburne and a creepy kingpin (James Remar). A young Lauren Holly plays the big boss’ moll, also a former girlfriend of one of the juvies (Danny Quinn).
About Holly and Quinn, they have a love scene shot through one of those glass block walls that was so popular at the time. That’s just one example of how perfectly ’80s the movie is. The scene is also set to Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings,” which also helps the nostalgia factor. Many other pop tunes of the era feature prominently for stylish moments, and the goth-punk-ish score is by the same band as did the “Manhunter” music (The Reds), but the film’s soundtrack is primarily significant for having an eponymous theme song sung by Bob Dylan with Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers and backup vocals by Stevie Nicks. Sort of a plot song, it shockingly was not nominated for an Oscar (it’s at least better than “That’s Life”‘s “Life in a Looking Glass”).
The film culminates as an action movie crossing “Red Dawn” with any of the countless films climaxing with a raid on a drug cartel compound. Kind of lame and unoriginal. But stick with it to admire Mitchell’s pop art trenchcoat, if anything. And, well, seeing Mitchell as an action hero is pretty marvelous in general. Plus, Holly gets to be the true hero, taking revenge on her former master in an outfit more appropriate for combat than any in “Sucker Punch.”
Anyone remember “Band of the Hand”? Anyone else enjoy it?