detroit-film-review-
Detroit-Screenshot

Review: 'DETROIT' Gives Very Little To The Black Community To Hold On To

Set in July 1967, 'DETROIT' chronicles the horrific events that occured inside the Algiers Motel.

Depending on which unarmed black or brown person is killed by a white member of law enforcement, followed by a useless indictment and subsequent yet predictable acquittal, Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film DETROIT may be viewed as more than gruesome, suspense filled entertainment. For certain moviegoers, activists and surviving family members, DETROIT is a cinematic dramatization of what is lived everyday.

Set in July 1967, the two hour film begins with police shutting down an unlicensed bar known as “The Blind Pig” by forcing patrons out and lining them up on the street. While a paddy wagon takes some away, a small crowd forms shouting “What did they do?” The lookie loos grow even more incensed at the irrational parading and arrest of innocent citizens and before long rocks are thrown, glass windows to storefronts are smashed and the city is quickly ablaze. Bigelow (Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) splices in actual footage from the 1960s throughout the film which adds texture, but also acts as a cross reference to inform the audience what’s being dramatized is real.

Police couldn’t get a handle on the rioting so former Michigan Governor George W. Romney (2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s father) sends in the National Guard to “restore” order with a militarized presence outfitted in tanks.

As Detroit crumbles, an unsigned group named The Dramatics waits in the wings of a local theater practicing their routine before they go on stage in what appears to be a talent show. Led by Larry Reid (Algee Smith) the group is moments away from performing when they’re told the auditorium must be evacuated due to the violence. Reid is distraught and despite having been left by everyone save for his best friend Fred (Jacob Latimore) he sings to an empty room before finally leaving.

While the film is called DETROIT, moviegoers may be surprised to know the story is about the horrific events that occurred at the Algiers Motel, which Reid and Fred check into for the evening. There they meet Carl (Jason Mitchell) and two white girls Julie (Hannah Murray) and Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) for what’s supposed to be a harmless evening until everything “blows over.” Seeing the commotion outside, Carl fires off three or four shots from a toy gun from a second-floor window under the belief police won’t be able to determine where the shots came from. Law enforcement soon swarms the motel and it's from this point the audience is immersed head first into non-stop turmoil.

It's hard to decipher if Bigelow was drunk off the allure of dramatizing black tragedy or wanted to showcase emotional black trauma for the sake of showcasing emotional black trauma, but there is very little to hold onto in this film. The audience initially receives it in small doses in the first 30-35 minutes. Whether it be seeing police mercilessly beat a black man in the street, or a sniper shoot through an open window killing a child. The first proper heart-wrenching moment comes when Officer Krauss (Will Poulter) sees Leon (Tyler James Williams) walking out of a looted store with two grocery bags full of items. Leon gives chase and Krauss shoots him twice in the back with a shotgun as he tries to climb a fence.

As if we didn’t see Walter Scott suffer the same fate for a lesser offense.

Make no mistake, this is a horror film being marketed as a period piece and Krauss is the most ferocious villain of them all. Played by the 24-year-old U.K. born actor, for the black community Poulter’s character is the boogeyman, he is the monster under our beds and no matter how much light sneaks into our room from mama leaving our bedroom door open, Krauss is still frightening. When asked how he washed his psychopathic character away, Poulter--who is warm, open, and bright--told VIBE it was easy to walk away from the heavy role but finding an entry point into the illogical mind of a racist proved to be the most challenging.

Krauss and his two cronies Flynn (Brian O’Toole) and Demens (Jack Reynor) are born and bred domestic terrorists armed with the power of the law which only emboldens their unjustified aggression. As Reid, Fred, Karen, Julie and Greene, a veteran (Anthony Mackie) face the wall with their hands up, the three cops enact the “death game” in which they take one into a room, fire off a shot, and tell the person to be quiet “or the next one’s for real.” The others outside think their friend is dead and this is supposed to be the interrogation tactic that will inspire them to fess up to a gun that doesn’t exist. If not that, then a constant beating from fists, the butt of a gun to the temple of a forehead or any other form of violence is used.

Lingering throughout the motel is John Boyega’s character, Dismukes who has the legal authority to stop the egregious abuse of power by his fellow men in uniform, but is crippled with fear and outnumbered. Dismukes wants to intervene but is alone and offers the little help he can by advising a motel attendee to “survive the night.” Dismukes is meek, even-keeled but the equivalent to low-impact cardio. This is not to say powerful performances can’t possess gentleness, but Bigelow doesn’t offer a backstory for Dismukes leaving little, once again, for attendees to hold onto.

And if the horror of the motel isn’t enough, Bigelow takes you through the entire trial where the verdict is all too familiar. If there is one redeemable aspect to the film it would be the small role of Aubrey Pollard Sr. (Gbenga Akinnagbe). In the film, Mr. Pollard gets a phone call and learns his son was at the Algiers Motel and the gentleness that already lives in his eyes is first replaced with denial and then sorrow. Akinnagbe’s role and delivery proves one of the young men killed was loved, received love and most likely gave love. He wasn’t just another dead nigger, but yet, Akinnagbe’s role was still there as a facilitator of the pain endured.

I can’t help but wonder how this gruesome story with no silver lining would be told had the film and script been handled by a person of color. There is emotional terrorism, psychological trauma and a hodgepodge of anger and helplessness that stays with you. These scents are the cologne of an already oppressed people. The ballooning resentment and injustice that grows throughout the film is also too much to swallow, but aside from just telling the story, where Bigelow falls short is the fact the film is devoid of any real empathy. If the Academy-Award winning director assumes dead black bodies will inspire an outpouring of support for black people in America, Emmett Till’s open casket proved Sister Bigelow wrong many moons ago.

Ava DuVernay is a firm believer in showing the ramifications of being black in America. Her Netflix film 13th which chronicled the prison system was full of graphic images. Everything from Eric Garner’s chokehold death to surveillance footage of Kalief Browder being jumped inside Riker’s Island were littered throughout the film, but during an interview, the Academy-Award nominated director said she simply couldn’t end the documentary by listing the names of all the prestigious talking heads which contributed to the film. Instead, she showed pictures of black families, men, women, and children, smiling, laughing and living the part of life that black people deserve as well.

The African-American community does more than endure, Kathryn Bigelow knows this, I hope.

I also wonder who this film is for? At the bottom of the movie poster, it reads “It’s time we knew.” Who is we? And know what? If you’re black in America this story may very well be your existence, if you’re not black, well, it must be nice to personify the old adage ignorance is bliss.

DETROIT hits theaters August 4. Good luck.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Dave Kotinsk

Charlamagne Tha God Makes Kevin Hunter "Donkey Of The Day"

Charlamagne Tha God let the choppa fly Wednesday morning (April 16) when he crowned Kevin Hunter, Wendy Williams' soon to be ex-husband and manager "Donkey of The Day."

The Power 105.1 host and Hunter were once comrades, but their friendship ended when Hunter allegedly grew irate Charlamagne played matchmaker with his longtime friend Wax and his then-mistress now the mother of his newborn daughter, Sharina Hudson.

"Think about that. Big grown-ass married negro from Brownsville, Brooklyn, supposed to be some thorough-ass hood dude upset because he thinks I'm trying to hook his side chick up with my homeboy. Does that not make him a Grade A sucker?" Charlamagne questioned.

The two-time bestselling author was once Williams' protege and in his nearly 13 minute-rant against Hunter, he expressed empathy for the talk-show host. "The reason why I've never had smoke for Wendy is that number one: I feel sorry for her. She was an abused woman on various levels," Charlamagne said.

Charlemagne spoke about the several attempts Hunter allegedly made to destroy his career, including promoting last year's narrative he supposedly raped a woman in South Carolin. The 2001 criminal sexual conduct charge was later dismissed after the radio host provided a DNA sample.

"There are only two people on this planet that I don't give a damn about, and Kevin Hunter is one of them."

Charlamagne was in rare petty form while delivering his stinging rant, and said his divorce after 21 years of marriage is the universe's response to his behavior.

"Kevin you so busy trying to curse others you end up cursing yourself. Did you really think you could go around treating people the way you treat them and not suffer any consequence from the universe all these years? The sad part is you treat everybody like doo-doo, but the one person you treat like doo-doo that you should never treat like doo-doo is your soon-to-be ex-wife.

"Bro, you are nothing without her."

After also crowning Hunter Doo-Doo Brown, Charlamagne predicted all that he dished out to Wendy would come back via Sharina Hudson.

"It's only a matter of time before Sharina leaves you. Don't think she's staying around. Whatever you get from Wendy, Sharina is going to get a bunch of that from child support. Oh, wait for it. It's coming. The same thing you did to Wendy, Sharina's going to do to you with another man. Guaranteed."

Watch Charla's "Donkey of The Day" below.

Continue Reading
Actor Michael B. Jordan backstage at the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Michael B. Jordan Would Like To Be Considered For B2K's Millennium Tour

Michael B. Jordan loves nostalgia. From the 90s and beyond, the actor has always shown love to those who helped create our favorite music memories. Now, Jordan is looking to throw his hat in the running for B2K's Millenium Tour.

The actor shared a hilarious video of himself, Terrance J and Ridiculousness' Steelo Brim jamming to Diddy's "I Need A Girl Remix" this week on Twitter with the caption, "Is there any more room on the Millennium Tour?" Fans of the 2000s hip-hip/R&B era are aware the jam was released in 2002 from Diddy's LP, We Invented The Remix.

https://twitter.com/michaelb4jordan/status/1116092812787953665

We're sure B2K, Mario, Pretty Ricky, Lloyd and the rest of the family wouldn't mind having Killmonger on the road with them. Meanwhile, the guys have brought out several special guests on the Millennium Tour. So far, surprise performances have included Ashanti, Ja Rule, Bow Wow and B5.

Enjoy "I Need A Girl Part 2" below.

Continue Reading
Screenshot from BET Livestream

Jhene Aiko Sings "Eternal Sunshine" At Nipsey Hussle's Memorial Service

Friends, family, and fans all gathered at the Staples Center Thursday (April 11) to tell stories, and offer warm anecdotes before saying their final goodbye to Nipsey Hussle. The memorial service billed as a celebration of life featured several musical performances including Jhene Aiko who sang a tender version of "Eternal Sunshine" from her Souled Out album.

The Los Angeles native dressed in black slacks, a black turtleneck and donned a tilted church hat as she took to the stage shortly after Lauren London and the couple's children greeted the audience. The song from her classic 2014 album Souled Out brought tears to many who watched the nearly three-hour service via live stream.

https://twitter.com/nicole_perez1/status/1116417574768656386

Jhene Aiko voice is soooo peaceful man it takes you to another world

— Lay (@gr8Tvibes) April 11, 2019

https://twitter.com/apryll_marie/status/1116415816885469185

On March 31st, the Grammy-nominated rapper was gunned down outside of his Marathon Clothing store in South Los Angeles. Reportedly, the 33-year-old left his home sans security to greet a friend just released from prison who served 20 years. The Victory Lap artist was planning to gift him with clothes.

Hussle's untimely death has sent shockwaves throughout the hip-hop and sports community, prompting fellow artists and athletes to vocally express their sadness and condolences, chief among them being Barack Obama who wrote a letter to Hussle's family that was read during the service.

Following the memorial service, a procession will pass by his Marathon Clothing store and end at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills where Hussle, real name Ermias Joseph Asghedom, will be laid to rest.

Continue Reading

Top Stories