December 15, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: DETROIT

Starring John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, Jack Reynor, Ben O'Toole, Anthony Mackie. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. (2017, 143 min).

Detroit is Kathryn Bigelow's best film to date. Hard to believe this is the same director once responsible for Point Break.

You know what else is hard to believe? That the horrific events in the movie actually happened. I knew about the 12th Street Riots, which stemmed from a conflict between the predominantly white Detroit police force and the African-American community after raiding an after-hours club. But I had no knowledge of the incident that occurred at the Algiers Motel on the fourth night of riots, when police, led by a hot-headed, trigger-happy cop - already in trouble for previously shooting a fleeing black man - viciously and mercilessly interrogate several tenants, one of whom they suspect is a sniper who took a shot at them. It was actually a starter gun and, given the circumstances, a pretty bone-headed prank. But how the police retaliate and what happens in the aftermath is beyond appalling.

"Candy? Where?"
The film does take a few dramatic liberties - and admits such during the end credits - but the core message remains clear: The Algiers incident was a travesty of justice and there's no justification for why things escalated so violently. What's even more unnerving, considering the recent plethora of incidents involving police and African-Americans, is the sickening realization that Detroit's message may be more timely than ever.

The snozzberries taste like snozzberries.
Like her previous two films, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow shoots events with an intimate urgency calculated to instill unease right from the get-go; we're consistently caught off-guard in every scene. Similarly, the city of Detroit is depicted as a war zone, only this one's right in our back yard and the enemy is someone we're supposed to trust. But unlike those other two films, Detroit is far more emotionally incendiary, partially because we know this shouldn't be happening, but also because of the time taken to establish every character, all of whom are portrayed by a terrific ensemble cast. Because we feel like we know them, their fates matter to us more than those in Zero Dark Thirty.

But you know what probably isn't hard to believe? That Detroit completely bombed in theaters. It didn't deserve to, but maybe its unfortunate timeliness worked against it. Who the hell wants to pay to see in a theater what we've been watching and reading in the news every day? But Detroit is a hell of a film that deserves a new life on home video. Compelling, disturbing and ultimately tragic, you'll be mad as hell by the time the end credits roll, but you're not likely to forget what you just saw.

You can't say that about Point Break, can you?

FEATURETTES (these are all very brief, 1-2 minute segments): "The Truth of Detroit"; "The Cast of Detroit"; "The Invasion of Detroit"; "The Hope of Detroit"; "Detroit: Then and Now"
VIDEO: "Grow" (featuring Algee Smith and the real Larry Reed)

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