Film Review: Detroit (2017)

Release Date: July 25th, 2017 (Fox Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Mark Boal
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie, Samira Miley, Chris Chalk, Chris Coy

Annapurna Pictures, First Light Productions, Page 1, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 143 Minutes

Review:

“I’m just gonna assume you’re all criminals.” – Krauss

John Boyega has been getting a lot of work lately, which is great, as I have been a fan since Attack the Block. Will Poulter, who I really only know as the virgin teen from We’re the Millers just made his entire career off of the back of his performance here.

Detroit has been released fifty years after the 1967 Detroit riots that it showcases. I’m not sure if that was intentional or just a convenient coincidence. Either way, the film shines a light on an incident that needed to be told and unfortunately, still has relevance today.

The movie uses its first hour to focus on the riots and the social and political climate around them. Although, if you are still alive and well in America today, it isn’t hard to understand. In fact, it makes you wonder how far we’ve actually come in half a century but the reality of the answer to that question is just depressing.

After the first hour of setup and character development, the film really picks up and gets to the story that was the main focus of the film’s trailers. Racist, psychotic police officers storm a hotel and discover two white girls in a building full of young black men and are offended by this. During the process, the main psycho cop (Poulter) shoots and murders a black man as he was running away through the building. The rest of the people in this part of the hotel are rounded up and put against a wall, as the cops threaten them, beat them and even kill some.

Following the hour or so with the cops in the hotel, the movie shifts to their trial and the aftermath of the situation for those who survived it.

Kathryn Bigelow, who is one of the best directors working today, proves, once again, that she can tell an exceptional and emotional tale that is relevant to what is happening in our world today. She also doesn’t box herself in with a traditional plot structure, as this film has three very different acts yet they all work in unison and weave a tale bigger than just the central incident of this film.

Getting back to Will Poulter, his performance as the racist piece of shit cop Krauss, was one of the best on screen villains in a long time. The kid has acting chops that go far beyond anything I could have expected, only having seen him in We’re the Millers. He has a unique look that can play virginal and innocent or intense and psychotic. He has the gravitas to pull off just about anything and I can’t wait to see where his career goes, as this should certainly open up a lot of doors. Based off of his look alone and his sly and sinister smile, I’d rather see him as the Joker than Jared Leto… just throwing that out there.

Detroit is not a perfect film or the best film that I have seen this year. However, it does what it sets out to do and it does it in a tasteful way that is hard for naysayers to argue against. While a lot of people want to turn a blind eye to how cops and the system have historically treated black people in this country, you can’t turn away and be disaffected by this picture. I hope it, at the very least, this opens some eyes.

I also hate the fact that it is 2017 and we still have to have these conversations.

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