Detroit (2017) Review

Updated on August 7, 2017
The official theatrical one-sheet for "Detroit."
The official theatrical one-sheet for "Detroit." | Source

Chaotic, Mesmerizing, and Infuriating

Set in Detroit in 1967, riots break out after a police raid triggers the crowd sparking the 12th Street Rebellion. On July 25, the occupants of the Algiers Motel were subjected to torture-like treatment by the Detroit Police Department. Three black men were killed in cold blood while seven black men and two white women were badly beaten for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Detroit is the type of film you recognize for being well made and controversially written with a top notch cast, but it’s difficult to endure. You appreciate the talent involved and are engrossed with what transpires on screen, but it’s an infuriating experience that frustrates you, violently mashes whatever buttons you have that set you off, and purposely wants you to leave the theater with your blood boiling.

An official production still from Kathryn Bigelow's period crime drama "Detroit."
An official production still from Kathryn Bigelow's period crime drama "Detroit." | Source

Frequent collaborators writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), choose the riots to be the focus of Detroit for the first half of the film but the second half heavily revolves around the Algiers Motel Incident. You see the film from three different perspectives; from a black security guard just trying to do his job and survive the night named Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a crooked cop named Philip Krauss (Will Poulter) corrupting his partners along the way, and from up and coming Motown musician Larry Reed (Algee Smith). Each of their stories end up intersecting at the motel and are connected throughout the rest of the picture and the three lead actors are quite exceptional.

John Boyega has been an actor to keep an eye on ever since he starred in the underrated yet fantastic film Attack the Block. Now as one of the stars of the new Star Wars franchise as well as the Pacific Rim sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, he’s basically a household name. Boyega is extremely grounded in Detroit. He’s only trying to keep the peace as Melvin Dismukes; works overtime after a double shift, offers coffee to the national guard to make them feel somewhat comfortable, and attempts to stand up for the little guy when no one else will. Boyega is a normal guy trying to live day to day, but when things look bad for him he’s just floored complete with glossed over eyes and trembling hands. The kid is a force to be reckoned with

Will Poulter has come a long way since starring in the last Chronicles of Narnia film and more recently Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant. Poulter is dirty, racist, ignorant, and has a mouth on him that gets him into and out of trouble on a regular basis as Philip Krauss. He frames innocent individuals solely because of the color of their skin. He’s the mastermind of what goes down at the Algiers Motel and seems to get a thrill out of shooting people in the back. Krauss is nasty, abusive, and a complete sociopath and is all the more riveting based on Will Poulter’s exasperating performance.

John Boyega as Melvin Dismukes in "Detroit."
John Boyega as Melvin Dismukes in "Detroit." | Source

Algee Smith is mostly new to feature films only appearing in the alien adventure Earth to Echo and the Hailee Steinfeld action adventure Barely Lethal. The Larry Reed character arc in Detroit is perhaps the most irritating. With a musical career just looming over the horizon, Larry Reed is changed forever after what he goes through at the Algiers Motel. Smith brings this confidence to the role; smooth behavior and actions for nearly every occasion. His voice is impressive as well and you believe it when people say he’ll eventually have a record deal. The character seems to embrace anger, holding a grudge, and poverty because of what happens over the course of two nights in Michigan in 1967. On one hand, you completely understand but on the other it seems like throwing away a winning lottery ticket because you don’t have big enough pockets. Smith roles with the punches though and perseveres as a talented young man who steals the show even though Larry Reed is never given the proper spotlight.

According to the film, there’s no official record of all the details of what went down at the Algiers Motel Incident so the film pieces things together from witness recollections and police reports. But it also feels like the entire incident could have been shortened and resolved in a slightly more efficient manner if somebody had actually mentioned what brought the police to that location to begin with. Ratting a certain individual out doesn’t seem like something anyone should worry about if that person has perished recently. Multiple characters in the film seem to withhold information like this that would either immediately resolve whatever trouble they find themselves in for no reason other than to rile up the audience.

Algee Smith as Larry Reed in "Detroit."
Algee Smith as Larry Reed in "Detroit." | Source

Some recognizable faces appear in some minor roles in the film. Samira Wiley, who was Poussey Washington on Orange is the New Black, appears briefly as the front desk clerk of the Algiers Motel. Anthony Mackie, known as Falcon in the Captain America films but was also in The Hurt Locker, portrays a wrongly accused and honorably discharged veteran in Detroit. Finally, there’s John Krasinski, Jim Halpert on The Office, pops up as the union attorney Auerbach for the Detroit P.D. It’s interesting to see more familiar faces take a backseat to fresher ones.

Detroit has this 12 Years a Slave quality to it. The film is absolutely compelling from start to finish, but it enrages you and continues to poke and irritate you until you’re in a livid state by the end of the film. There’s this agonizing quality to Detroit that is relentless once it sets in with little hope or resolution occurring along the way. John Boyega, Will Poulter, and Algee Smith are outstanding and the film is pieced together in relatively clever fashion, but it’s the type of well executed film no one will want to watch more than once.

4 stars for Detroit (2017)

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Chris Sawin

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Fullerman5000 profile image

        Ryan Fuller 

        15 months ago from Louisiana, USA

        I love the directors previous works so I will definitely have to give this film a watch. Thank you for a great review. I will wait for this on Netflix

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)