MovieBob Reviews DETROIT 2017

first_img MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Stay on target Is Detroit Good?It’s not great, but it’s a solid movie and – despite major shortcomings – an important one.Is it about Robocop??No, it is not about Robocop.What’s it about?Detroit is a fact-based procedural drama from Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal (both late of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty). It’s about “The Algiers Motel Incident,” an infamous night-long instance of race-related police brutality taking place in Detroit. This is in July of 1967 during a larger stretch of violent clashes between outraged civilians and the city’s notoriously racism-infested police department known as The 12th Street Riots. The incident saw nine people suffer brutal beatings and abuse attributed to a group of out-of-control police officers and resulted in at least three deaths – one of which has never been officially solved.Okay. So, this is one of the “serious” Summer Movies.Correct. We’re at the point where Summer starts bleeding into Fall and the “Awards Season” contenders whose distributors think they might also have mainstream-audience appeal start hitting theaters.What’s the actual story?After a brief animated opening that tries to explain (in case you’re new on the planet) the history of Black/White racial tensions in the United States prior to the Civil Rights Movement.  The prelude sequence depicts the overzealous, racially-motivated police raid of an after-hours party that’s generally cited as the starting-point for the 12th Street Riots. The story starts up on the day of the Algiers Incident and follows several characters (three primarily) who are destined to “meet” at the motel itself. Algee Smith as a struggling singer who takes refuge there after the riots scuttle his big break. John Boyega as a well-meaning security guard who considers himself an expert in calmly negotiating his way around White racism unscathed. And Will Poulter as an unhinged, wormy man-child of a racist cop who (already staring down a possible homicide charge for unloading a shotgun on a fleeing Black “rioter” earlier) appoints himself the leader when a group of cops and National Guardsmen respond to suspicions of sniper fire coming from the Algiers. The bulk of the film is a methodical recreation – in brutal, violent detail – of what’s known and thought to have happened there; followed by an overview of exactly how the bad guys ultimately got away with it.That sounds really tough to watch.It’s extremely punishing and as tense and shocking as any horror-thriller, but the intent here is to horrify and outrage more so than “thrill” so it’s decidedly unpleasant and not at all “entertaining” to watch (not that a film on this subject should be or needs to be.)So why didn’t you think it was great?Because there’s not really much to it beyond that. Bigelow is as skilled a director as they come. So it’s all very well assembled, and the shock-and-outrage elements all connect in the right spots. But there’s a distinct lack of depth under all that bloody surface. The narrative lacks the dimension and insight to render the otherwise thinly-sketched characters as more than players in a well-meaning torture show built to generate somber outrage and not much else. It hits hard, but it doesn’t wound – it only bruises.I heard there’s also some controversy involved?There was probably always bound to be – American pop-culture is about as bitterly divided on the subject of police racism as it has ever been. But, perhaps unexpectedly, the main criticism has come in the form of questions over whether or not primarily White Hollywood filmmakers should be the ones telling this story and/or whether they lack the cultural perspective to do so.How do you feel about that?I’m not exactly qualified to have an answer on the merits of that, but what I can say is that it would be a lot easier to dismiss as a criticism if the film wasn’t so surface level about its subject matter. Maybe if it had more to say once it has our attention with the in-your-face brutalism than “police racism is a thing, and you should feel bad about it.” And I have to agree that, intentionally or not, the overall thrust of the film feels mostly aimed at, if not a “white audience.” So then at the very least an audience that it’s expecting to find the simple existence of police brutality and systemic racism so shocking and outrageous that said outrage becomes a sufficient “point” in its own right… and I think that makes it reasonable to ask, at least philosophically, whether or not it’s appropriate for White filmmakers to use (real-life) Black pain as a cudgel to make a point – especially when the point doesn’t end up being much more than “Look at this pain.” Again, if there was more depth here (as there was in both Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker), this might be a different story.But you think it has positives as well?Yes, many of them. The filmmaking is powerful, and the performances are all excellent. And while it does indeed not go much deeper than presenting outrages to be outraged by, it does so effectively, especially in a succession of scenes where we witness people with authority to stop or punish the violence ultimately decide that it’s somehow not worth the effort. There’s not much here but the indictment, but the indictment does sting – and that’s not nothing. It’s by no means a “bad” film, overall, in fact, it’s quite solid. It just feels like it’s missing a greater sense of emotional/psychological scope that it seems to have wanted to have.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img

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