Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
Bottom Line: A disturbing look at a disturbing period of history. Could have done without the last half hour of the movie.
“Detroit” follows the events of the 1967 Detroit Riots with a focus on the Algiers Hotel incident. And by “incident” I mean the abuse and murder of Black people by police officers. You know how this ends. I came out of the movie angry. Not because of the injustice of the events in the movie, though they are infuriating, but because I can see no progress from 1967 to 2017. What happened at the Algiers Hotel can happen today and does happen today with worrying frequency. And when a movement springs up to try to combat those injustices, they’re equated with Nazis. Welcome to America 2017.
The events surrounding the Algiers Hotel incident are confusing and the movie does a really good job of portraying that while also keeping a very close hold on the truth of what happened that night. You will leave the movie with questions and that’s a good thing. My biggest question of all was who is this Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) character? He was a security guard hired to guard a nearby store and somehow got tangled up with everything that happened at the Algiers. The police just seem to accept his presence there, which is weird. My best guess is he was a police wannabe, the security guard industry being filled with them. Boyega portrays him as a decent fellow, but there’s just a wrongness of him being there and abetting some really bad police/national guardsmen. I wonder if there is more to know or if that’s all we really do know about him.
The last half hour of the movie is a puzzle to me. First, it’s pretty boring. The main story has been resolved and it just follows Larry Reed (Algee Smith) who quit The Dramatics because of the events of that night. Second, it takes away a lot of the impact of the movie. It’s as if they didn’t want to leave the audience feeling like crap so they tagged on this feel-goodish ending as if to give a bit of a feeling of hope. It would have been much more powerful if they ended the movie with the not guilty verdicts being read and the murderers walking free as the entire police force cheers them on.
“Detroit” is a compelling movie and should be watched by all. It is often not easy to watch, but it should be known and said out loud frequently that this stuff happens even to this day and we should not stand for it and silence is complicity.