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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "Detroit"

There are many different ways to see Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film, “Detroit”. The odd thing is that the audience may not be the only ones asking that question. From what the trailer conveyed to me, it is the story of the horrible tragedy that took place during the riots in the city in 1967 at the annex to the Algiers hotel, but from the first twenty minutes it felt like more than that. As the film kicks off, an off-hours club is raided by local police for not being licensed properly by a police force that is seen as corrupt and overly forceful. As the rioting escalates, Patrolman Krauss (Will Poulter) decides that he needs to take matters into his own hands to an extreme. After he is put through an investigation for shooting someone he decides is a looter, he responds to a call of a possible sniper at the Algiers, sparking a night of terror for the people staying in the building. From two young free spirited ladies (Hannah Murray and Kaitlyn Dever) just wanting to have a good time to aspiring singer Larry (Algee Smith) and his best friend (Jacob Latimore) and a Vietnam veteran just trying to get back to normal life (Anthony Mackie), the night gets worse as it gets longer.

Even after the incident completely unfolds, there is another thirty minutes that deal with the legal fallout from that night followed by other ancillary stories that I could see as trying to tell the full story, but at almost two and half hours, it just seemed like it was never really sure which path it wanted to follow. I felt like the events leading up to the main story could have been trimmed back, and even some of the third act as well. The second act is so emotionally draining that anything that came after really did not give me the chance to catch my breath so I could digest the aftermath. I guess the slow pacing that bookended this film combined with the meandering story in those areas are what really took me out of it, which is a bit of a shame given some very powerful performances here from some great actors like Poulter who is so convincing that I fear that there are some out there that will have difficulty drawing the difference between the actor and the character; this performance is THAT good. Mackie is also very good in his limited screen time, but Smith absolutely brings an amazing emotional gambit to the role of Larry. Only having seen him as Ralph Tresvant in “The New Edition Story,” this role gave me a whole new respect for him as an actor, and I look forward to where his career goes from here. John Boyega also has a great turn, but I really thought there would be more from his character within the story than there was. If there is one character I would have like to have seen more fleshed out by trimming more from others, it would have been his.

Given that “Detroit” is a late summer release as opposed to an October or November release raises some questions as to the general perception of its award potential given the principals involved (I would like to see Poulter at least get recognized as well as some technical awards like sound design). I cannot say that this is in any way the worst film I have seen this year or even in the bottom half; what I will say is given the keys myself, I may have approached this story differently while making sure its message and heartbreaking story stayed intact.

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