I apologize for the lack of posts last week. I did see this film on Friday, but it left me… contemplative. It was necessary to sort out the emotions, let the anger cool, and then the Charlottesville drive-by happened and American media erupted. Now, as much fun as I have writing these things, when it comes to politics, I try to stay out of political/social issues. Mostly because I don’t trust myself enough not to say something stupid or ignorant on the Internet. Now that I have everything figured out, let’s talk about Kathryn Bigelow’s intense, but manipulative drama.
I’ll admit, this is definitely a film that educates (somewhat), but the filmmaking approach favors harsh racism and brutality as opposed to character development and a good balance between tension and morals. The first act is tame compared to the other two: showing us the causes of the Detroit riots in 1967. Unfortunately, the movie forgoes whatever narrative it had to assault the viewer with uncomfortable scene after uncomfortable scene. Seriously, A Clockwork Orange (which featured rape, torture, murder, and ultra-violence) wasn’t as hard to watch as Detroit, only difference is that Detroit focuses on the stuff that makes movies like Moonlight win Best Picture. The film attempts something similar to what Patriots Day did, telling the larger portion of the event in one night through multiple character perspectives. However, the pacing is terrible. Looking at this movie from a writing standpoint, the climax starts at the forty minute mark and goes on for thirty minutes. Thirty, incredibly uncomfortable minutes. Most of the movie takes place at a hotel, where the main black characters (and a few others caught in the wrong place at the wrong time) are intensely interrogated by Poulter’s group of hostile city police officers. For the sake of time (and the film itself admits that some scenes were dramatized), all I’ll say is that this is one excessive sequence.
The most interesting thing about this film is Will Poulter’s detestable, prejudiced, white-cop, antagonist. Not only is Poulter giving his all for this character, he’s the only one who has any inner conflict. The motivation is not clear-cut and it’ll leave you thinking twice about a character that was written to be hated. This brings me to my biggest complaint; the movie gives you nothing to chew on. Look, I’ve seen a lot of black history films, shows, books, etc. I’ve noticed a few common traits and manipulative techniques. In the end, the most effective ones where movies like Glory and In the Heat of the Night (1967). The films that put the story and characters first before getting into the tough stuff. I can only care so much about your movie when I cannot remember the names of the main characters as they go through these atrocities. It’s not difficult to get the audience to cringe, police racism is a hot-button topic in America; it takes much more effort to create something that the audience can come back to. Once the credits roll, you’ll feel absolutely terrible, then completely forget the film a week later. Not something a filmmaker wants, regardless of the point you were trying to get across. Detroit gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C.
Thanks again for your patience, I’m moving into my dorm next week and final preparations are being done. However, I’ll have something on The Dark Tower on Monday.