Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review
Just another everyday trip to the grocery store in, Detoit

"I'm just gonna assume you're all criminals."

Without fully realizing it until recently, I'd like to admit that I have been an unwitting fan of director Kathryn Bigelow since the early 90's. Not including her student short film (The Set-Up), couple stabs at music videos, a co-writer credit on a TV movie (Undertow), and an animated documentary short (Last Days), I have seen eight of her ten full length motion pictures. Her first film "The Loveless" (1982), and "The Weight of Water" (2000), are the two that I haven't. What made me a fan, are five of those ten, and three that don't sway me in any particular direction. Please excuse my mathematical breakdown, since there's some odd reasons that I feel a bit nerdy this evening. Those odd reasons are from the original and fun Point Break, the still underrated Strange Days, the engaging yet slightly overrated The Hurt Locker, the "I can't believe I missed seeing this until 2010" gem Near Dark, and the always intriguing Zero Dark Thirty. Those films hold impressively well over time. Even Blue Steel and K-19: The Widowmaker are worth an occasional viewing. This next one though, I'm still on the fence about.

Detroit Movie Review
Jacob Lawrence's paintings illustrate the beginning of, Detroit

My Impression of Detroit

Bigelow's attempt at largely focusing on a never mentioned yet relevant incident during the 1967 Detroit race riots, is for the most part a very effective one. My first and most powerful emotion with Detroit, is the feeling of anger. That anger is drawn from the subject matter, which puts the injustice and dehumanizing of black people at the forefront. That in turn also generates a feeling of empathy for all who are wronged on the screen. The blatant racism seen here is sobering to behold, especially when you think about how subtly bottled up it is now only fifty years later. The intro begins with an absorbing animated artwork detailing the early 1900's mass migration of Southern black people to Northern industrial cities, their struggles with civil rights, and their growing rage which cleverly leads to the film's current setting. The following scenes prepare the viewer for the tipping point, after a legal raid is done by the police in front of some already heated citizens. The justification for their responses, comes next by showing us the film's main antagonists; The mostly white police force. But what Detroit does very well, is that it doesn't label every white person nor cop as racist and/or sadistic. It just tries to tell you an honest story. The cuts of actual news footage from the riots that are interspersed throughout, the costumes, and the sets, give a real touch to the era. The camera angles and darkly lit areas of the city, also heightens the film's suspense. Right before the main plot comes around, the pace and some of the fiery tension cools down to introduce a few of the main characters. Things get rough again by the second act, yet the slow down hurts things a bit.

I know it's almost standard to say that the villain gets all of the good lines, well here it's also true. Will Poulter (We're the Millers) takes those lines and creates a character that is so much scarier than some fictional slasher killer. He's more terrifying because his type of self-justification exists in the real world. John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is like Poulter's polar opposite. He plays a good man who tries to keep the tensions low between everybody, even going so far as to take coffee out to some white soldiers who are ready for war. He even swallows his own personal disgust when helping Poulter out with his interrogation/torture tactics, just to keep everybody alive. You can see the terror and conflict in his eyes. Seeing the differences in how Poulter and Boyega react to being interrogated after the incident, is very telling about how terrifying it was for black people at that moment in time, and how white people could easily benefit from a position of authority. Poulter seems to be scolded as a defiant child more than anything, while Boyega is in absolute fear for his life because he's defenseless to do anything about it. If they say he's guilty, he's guilty. Algee Smith (The New Edition Story) gives a strong take, as someone whose God given talent as a lead singer for The Dramatics gets suppressed by the trauma of racism and violence. The man feels hurt in ways that end up staying with him his entire life. "Can't miss" smaller parts from Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones), Darren Goldstein (Damages), Ben O'Toole (Hacksaw Ridge), Jacob Latimore (The Maze Runner), and John Krasinski (13 Hours), keeps you invested in everything that Detroit has to offer.

Detroit Movie Review
John Boyega has reason to fear in, Detroit

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Detroit

The Good- Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) pays the ultimate price for only stealing groceries, a little girl is mistaken for a sniper, Poulter plays a game with people's lives, a heated Detective Tanchuck catches a fleeing Poulter, and Boyega's post verdict discussion with Poulter doesn't resolve a damn thing. It only makes things more tragic.

The Bad- I liked Anthony Mackie's (The Hurt Locker) part in the film, but you can't tell me that his "blink and you'll miss him" appearance was more than just a director's nod at her previous work with him. If you're gonna have Papa Doc (8 Mile) in your film, then use him for what he does best; Commanding more scenes than one. And was there any resolution about Poulter's first murder at the film's beginning?

The Ugly- The film's real life based ending and the constant feeling of powerless anger, keeps Detroit's replayability very low in my book. It's honest, yet for me it's not worth going through again for as a viewer from the comforts of my safe life.

Final Thoughts

From a movie watcher's perspective, Detroit is not much more than what I've already seen with superior films like In the Heat of the Night, Mississippi Burning, or Do the Right Thing. That being said though, it is an important movie about a tragic event amongst the countless injustices of the era. Not her best, but Kathryn Bigelow and a stellar cast makes this worth a trip to the theaters. Poulter and Boyega should absolutely get some attention during awards season. Don't expect a happy ending here. This is sad. This is unfair. This is real. Thank God it's no longer racist in this country anymore. Oh, wait...
Rating- 7.5 out of 10

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit (2017)

R | 2h 23min | Crime, Drama, History | 4 August 2017 (USA)
Amidst the chaos of the Detroit Rebellion, with the city under curfew and as the Michigan National Guard patrolled the streets, three young African American men were murdered at the Algiers Motel.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Stars: John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith