Man, I really should have paid attention in history class. I assume it’s a racially charged film. No duh, 1967 white cops in a black neighborhood, that goes without saying. But I suppose what sets this film apart is the star-studded and fairly interesting cast. I’m mostly referring to Will Poulter, who seems like he’s playing a cop who is in charge, even though he looks like he’s in high school. No offense to the man of course, he’s twenty-four years old, but just the way his face is structured, I almost don’t buy him as someone giving orders. But it’s not like I’ve seen the film and for all I know, his performance overshadows his baby face. To be fair, he is a great actor, so I’m sure that’ll be the case.
Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have John Boyega (THE CIRCLE , STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS , and upcoming films STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI  and PACIFIC RIM UPRISING ), Will Poulter (THE REVENANT  and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER ), and Anthony Mackie (TRIPLE 9 , CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER , and Marvel’s upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ). In support, we have Algee Smith (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Jacob Latimore (SLEIGHT  and COLLATERAL BEAUTY ), Jack Reynor (FREE FIRE , SING STREET , and the upcoming MOWGLI ), John Krasinski (THE HOLLARS , 13 HOURS ), and Kaitlyn Dever (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of).
Now for the crew. Directing is Kathryn Bigelow, known for THE HURT LOCKER (2008) and POINT BREAK (1991). Penning the screenplay is Mark Boal, known for THE HURT LOCKER. Composing the score is the always amazing James Newton Howard, known for FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016), and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Barry Ackroyd, known for JASON BOURNE (2016).
Overall, yeah, this looks like it’s going to be good. Some great talent in front of and behind the camera, so I’m thinking we can expect a quality film here. Let me at it.
This is my honest opinion of: DETROIT
Set in 1967 Detroit, Michigan. Racial tension between the black community and law-enforcement is at an all-time high and the city has become a war-zone, with officers gunning down black people in the streets for little to no cause and covering their tracks with lies and false evidence. Within the local Algiers Motel, a black teenager, fed up with the police and the mistreatment of black, fires a few blank rounds at the police to scare them, but the result is the police thinking it’s a sniper attack and the motel is raided and so ensues a night of humiliation, beatings, and murder.
I feel a little conflicted. It’s good, but I’m not sure just how good I feel about it. Definitely, the one thing I will say is don’t see it if you’re expecting a story with a happy ending. It’s not sad, or anything, but my buddy whom I saw it with said it best, “It’s depressing.”
I can’t say how long this review will be, but let’s see how I do.
First and foremost, the acting is spectacular. On the villainous side, Poulter threw me to the ground, shoved a pole in my back, and wiped the floor with me because he was so despicable, so fucking monstrous that he quite possibly stole the show. Not that I have a mind to catch on to “themes” of movies all the time, but one of them was just how low and depraved these men could get in this time period and what they managed to get away with. They will even take an act like praying, a symbolic gesture of peace, clarity, and hope, and use it to traumatize and horrify, forcing them to recite a prayer at the threat of death. And their behavior and attitude isn’t just reserved for the people of color. No, they’ll mistreat the white women too. It’s incredibly hard to watch. But the act of threatening alone isn’t enough if the victims aren’t scared out of their minds and boy howdy did I believe they were. Man, I hope shooting on that set that things were chill between everyone because even though it’s acting, I can see things getting out of hand and someone decking each other simply out of reaction, but I highly doubt that ever happened. Stories like Shia Lebeouf knocking out Tom Hardy are pretty isolated incidents. Either way, everyone did amazing and you could cut the fear in their eyes with a chainsaw and not make a scratch. If you wanted a real horror film to watch that features no monsters, this is well worth that experience.
I suppose another aspect that I can appreciate is the restraint that this movie had to not have Julie (Hannah Murray) or Karen (Dever) raped by the cops. While I’m sure that didn’t happen in the incident anyway, I can definitely see some studio big-wig trying to throw that “creative liberty” in there all in the name of “added dramatic effect.” You can’t convince me it hasn’t happened before. It sure looked like it was going to go that route what with the constant close-ups of the two women’s backsides and the animalistic men ogling over them. Hell, I was ready to rip my hair out after Julie’s clothes were ripped off. I was calling it, that’s where it was going to happen. But nope, the humiliation and the implication in the men’s eyes was more than enough, and honestly, a lot more effective.
Other than there being a great deal intensity and visceral stress and fear that you feel alongside the victims, there’s not a whole lot of praise to be spoken. It’s just holding a magnifying glass on an incident which perfectly captured the tension between two sides of a conflict and what the law was clearly there to protect at the time, and it wasn’t always its citizens.
Although, having done no real research, and certainly not having the resources that the crew had while putting this movie together, one element did bother the crap out of me. Carl (Jason Mitchell) used a pistol with blanks when he wanted to scare the cops. When the cops raid the place looking for the gun, they keep shouting for it, but… why don’t they explain that it’s not real, or didn’t have real bullets? They spent hours getting questioned and it’s like they honest to God didn’t know anything about a real gun. Is a real gun so indistinguishable from a fake one, or a real one with no real ammo? I don’t know, I grew up with paintball, airsoft, and cap guns, as well as watching a whole ton of action movies. I think I could tell the difference. These people, scared or not, really didn’t say anything?! Maybe this is a weird detail overlooked by the movie, but… yeah, that seemed off to me.
Overall, this movie isn’t for the feint of heart and it certainly shouldn’t be seen if you’re looking for a crowd pleaser. But it’s the 1960’s in one of the most crime-ridden cities in America, even to this day. This movie’s setting alone was an indication that a happy ending was never going to be in the cards. But it’s worth watching. It’s a powerful piece that will stay with you. I think a detail or two can be questioned, but it’s a good film. It’s no “must see” of the year, but if you have even a passing interest, I do recommend it.
My honest rating for DETROIT: 4/5