Movie Review: Detroit


Kathryn Bigelow's technically proficient docu-drama "Detroit" is a gritty, visceral telling of the Algiers Motel Incident (July 25-26, 1967), during the Detroit Riots. 50 years ago, last week; the bubble of race relations finally burst in the Detroit neighborhood of Virginia Park. City police broke up a "Blind Pig", an unlicensed nightclub in the wee hours of Sunday, July 23rd, 1967. The party was supposed to be small in number, it was not. The arrests were supposed to be quick and quiet, they were not. A crowd gathered to watch 82 blacks be arrested in another show of force from the overwhelmingly white Detroit Police Department. Bottles were thrown at police, looters ravaged storefronts and buildings burned over the 4 day event. But, this movie isn't about the riots specifically.

I have a love/hate relationship with this film. If one wanted to know about this black eye in modern American history then, sure; Detroit is a necessary conversation starter. Mired in revisionist history, Detroit is effectively tense in covering the events of the Algiers Motel, but I couldn't help but wonder, who was the film's targeted audience.

As an African-American, Detroit doesn't break new ground in presenting similar racially charged stories. Aside from stirring performances from Algee Smith and Will Poulter, the cast was rather forgettable and bland. I guess my biggest gripe about Detroit is a lack of understanding of the culture of the city. From the moment we see gun slinging cops shoot an unarmed looter or the blatant disregard for civil rights; the unflinching rawness of Detroit is apparent. However, the film suffers from an emptiness, a soullessness that reflects Bigelow's penchant for telling well researched stories that only feign inclusiveness. Much like her 2008 well intentioned but hollow war drama The Hurt Locker, Bigelow's Detroit is marketed as "truth". That's as apt as comparing an episode of Law & Order to a documentary.

Verdict: C+ Rated: R @ 143 mins Note: In select theaters now with a wide release August 4

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