See It at the Movies

Movie review: DETROIT



* * *

(Based on violent 1967 Detroit riots)

You will need a strong stomach to sit through this extremely violent, depressing recounting of actual events of police brutality and uncontrolled rioting on the streets of Detroit 50 years ago. You will feel the pain of the young black men who are mentally and physically abused by those who were commissioned to protect them. And looking at the number of cases of police brutality today, you will ask yourself, "When will we ever learn?"

The movie begins with a police raid on an illegal after-hours bar, which was a catalyst for the rioting, looting and police and National Guard actions that followed.

Anthony Mackie plays the Vietnam veteran being welcomed home by his friends, only to be caught in the middle of a vicious action by the Detroit Police, led by one of the most despicable characters ever portrayed on the screen. Will Poulter plays the cop with such ugliness that it will be difficult to even look at him in any future roles. I have never felt such animosity for any character portrayed on the screen.

A large portion of the two-hour and 20-minute film takes place at the Algiers Motel, a seedy place where a number of young predominantly black young people have gathered to party.

Police in the area panic when they hear the shots of a starter pistol fired by one of the young men. They storm the motel with members of the National Guard and literally torture the young men and two white girls, taking them individually into a room and fooling the rest into thinking they were killed. The action keeps getting more brutal and deadly. The game goes on too long and is too mean-spirited to watch for the length of time spent on it. Not enough time is spent on the subsequent trial of the three police officers accused of murder and the devastating result of the trial.

Confusing for me was the character of the security guard (John Boyega) who was caught in the middle. While he seemed sympathetic toward the victims of the police brutality, he did little to help and didn't seem to play any part in the trial.

"Detroit" has strong messages about prejudice, inequality, justice and fairness. If the prolonged violence was meant to get our attention and outrage us, it certainly succeeded. How many people want to sit through that is the question.

During the credits, we get a chance to see some of the real-life characters represented. We are also informed that the long siege in the motel was based on what the writers assumed happened and not on actual facts.

Rated R with profanity and extreme violence.


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