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Summer In the City

"Detroit" exposes another dark corner of American history

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To protect and serve...who, exactly?
  • To protect and serve...who, exactly?
"D

etroit" is the best movie I'll never watch again. Just like "The Passion of the Christ" or "Enter the Void," the film is designed to make the audience feel something deeply, as opposed to being something one could remotely define as "entertainment." While "Detroit" feels like something important that everyone across the country should watch, it's also hard not to focus on the fact that if it wasn't based on a true story, the film would play a lot more like "Hostel" than it wants to.

Taking place across a few days during the summer of 1967, "Detroit" tells the true story of some racist cops and seven young innocent African-Americans (and a couple of white girls) who cross paths at the Algiers Motel during the 12th Street riots. The city is on fire and the predominantly black residents of the motel are all laughing, swimming and having a party. Whether it's Anthony Mackie's ex-Airborne hero Greene who's in Detroit looking for work or Jacob Latimore's Fred Temple, who stopped in with his best friend to avoid the riots, the primary motivation for everyone's presence is to stay out of the way.

When one of the residents fires a starter pistol out the window toward some very skittish DPD, private security and National Guardsmen, the already-scared law enforcement assume there's a sniper at work and rush the Algiers Motel. By the end of the night, three young men have been murdered by cowardly, black-souled police and the men who stood by and did nothing.

"D

etroit" is a Black Lives Matter movie for the All Lives Matter crowd. There's no way to watch the movie without fearing the militarization of the police while also seeing the parallels with our modern justice system. It's been 50 years since the events at the Algiers, but the black community doesn't have it much better when it comes to seeking justice or dealing with law enforcement. If you disagree, I suggest asking the loved ones of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin ,etc.

Sitting through the film's overlong 142-minute running time, it's hard not to imagine what a leaner and more stripped down version of the story would look like. Director Kathryn Bigelow ("Zero Dark Thirty," "Point Break") once again uses her almost documentary-like style to create a film that feels both immediate and timeless. On the one hand, it's an important story that everyone in the country should know, but it's also hard not to complain about how repetitive and, eventually, numbing the film becomes.

The biggest issue with "Detroit" is that the running time feels punishing based on the brutal and extremely horrific subject matter. Since there's really no central character, the film plays like an unbiased and historically accurate view of the event, when it could have carried even more weight as a primal howl of rage at systemic racism and police brutality.

Bigelow is a masterful director, but "Detroit" could have used more poetry and less of a clinical and chilly eye.

Detroit

Dir. Kathryn Bigelow

Grade: B+

Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAC, Sisters Movie House


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