It's a mild shock to settle into "Band of the Hand" (citywide), and realize that the title song is a Bob Dylan original--done by Dylan and Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. Will the movie have more surprises? Will it rise above the "Miami Vice" film clone the ads suggest?
Unfortunately, no. "Band of the Hand" is a formula 1986 revenge thriller, and, though it hooks you frequently into its thin plot, it never gets far past formula. It's a bad movie with saving graces-- Dylan's song among them--which is better than a bad movie that just lies there and rots.
The style is cop-show high tech, and in the hands of director Paul Michael Glaser (once of "Starsky and Hutch"), and cinematographer Reynaldo Villalobos, it rips along with jagged, off-angle energy-- like a nonstop, punchy trailer. Villalobos drenches the screen with sleazy atmospherics: He is one of the saving graces. But the dialogue is Hollywood-TV chic: monosyllabic \o7 macho \f7 exchanges, peppered with profanity and a zinger every three lines or so.
The plot is a stripped-down moralistic fable: five incorrigible young felons are taken into the Everglades by a Vietnam vet Seminole cop and taught the primal laws of survival and group responsibility. Then they emerge and try to survive the vice-ridden streets of Miami, which slap them down. Bloody revenge follows a killing as the kids go up against Miami's slimiest drug czar in another flabbergasting 10-to-1 movie-climax battle.
The violence is so overheated and constant that you soon begin to ignore it. A wild boar rampages through the glades, a rattler strikes, somebody gets a knife in the hand, a car blows up, rifle war breaks out in the streets, the drug lab explodes, dozens--then hundreds--die. How can you focus on it any more? Thrillers like this aren't even stylized like Westerns; they're a mish-mash of gunfights, chest-pounding, current events and kung fu, sauced with blood.
Glaser has gotten uniformly hip, tense, nervy performances from the cast--and somewhat more from Stephen Lang as the cop and James Remar, doing another scowling, lisping sadist as the drug czar. You get the idea, in fact, that everyone involved here might do really good work--if they weren't sunk in the swamps of commerce and bitten by the rattlers of revenge.