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Saturday
Jul292017

Detroit (2017)Movie Review

When I heard that this movie was being made I was conflicted on whether or not to see it.  While a ton of films have been shot in Detroit only a handful off the top of my head have actual been about Detroit(“Robocop”, “8 Mile” and now “DETROIT”) and those haven’t portrayed Detroit in a positive light.  This film is about an event that still affects the city today (on a subconscious and to a degree conscious level)even though most people here don’t want to talk or think about it anymore.  Still it’s a movie about the city I’ve lived in most of my life so I probably should see it just to see if the film-makers do the people and the event justice.  They did, to a degree.

 

Directed by Katherine Bigelow “DETROIT” (2017) follows a a group of people who all diverge at the Aljiries hotel during the 1967 Detroit riot.  It’s important to point out that the film isn’t about the riot, what lead up to it or the aftermath of it.  It’s main focus is what happened at the hotel.  The riot itself it’s more used as the background of the film. A good way to think about it is how Dunkirk is about one event of WW2 and not about the totality of the war itself.

 

 

PRO:

 

Acting across the board was great.  I know people will say that most of the cops in the film were one note and evil but that’s how it was then.  Corruption was from the bottom up(you could argue now the corruption is from the top down, it’s just that people hide their true feelings better, anyway).  The cast wasn’t too large so we did get to know each character.  Even the ones that at first seemed they were going to have just small roles.  Each actor made the most of their time onscreen.  For the most part the environment and era were recreated faithfully.  The music and fashion were on point. (A side note none of the actors sound like actual Detroit’s or rather don’t have the Detroit accent.  A minor quibble)  That said only a few shot were actually shot in Detroit…for reasons.  Gee thanks Governor Snyder & Michigan state government I guess we just can’t have nice things.  Anyway most of the film was shot in Boston. 

 

The period era costuming were excellent as well.  It didn’t come off like the actors were playing dress up. 

 

For the first half of the film it was pace very well.

 

However -

 

CON:

 

The film was shot on hand held cameras so there was a shakiness to almost every scene.  This worked well during the high tension scenes unfortunately it got off putting for the rest of the film.

 

The 1960’s music was good but the score seemed non-existent.  It was completely unremarkable, which is odd since it’s by James Newton Howard. 

 

PACE.  While the pace for the first half was good the second half seemed to have a stop start quality to it.  Part of the reason I think was the inclusion of the music group and it’s lead singer.  It makes sense for him to be in the story but whenever we go back to him the film feels off during those moments. 

 

Also since most of the film wasn’t filmed in Detroit not all of the set recreations felt authentic.  An example would be the Fox Theater.  Since I wasn’t born at the time I can’t be 100% sure but from some pics I’ve seen in the past the FOX had a grand majestic interior before it was renovated.

 

*SIDE-NOTE* Based on what some people have said over the years there were business owners who torched their own business for the insurance money and used the riot’s as a convient excuse.  In some cases people saw the owners do it.

 

The opening is done in an animated montage.  I liked that but after watching the entire film I just wished Bigelow would have spent more time and actually show what lead up to the riot.  Show the growing racial and cultural tensions and right before the breaking point.  It doesn’t have to take up half the film it could just be the first 15 - 20 minutes.  Well that’s not the type of story she was going for so I have to just judge what she produced. 

 

RECOMMEND?:  Yes.

 

This is a good film.  It’s well acted, directed has a ton of tension but it’s also really brutal.  EVERYONE should see it.  Most won’t probably for…reasons.  Looking back at Katherine Bigelow’s previous 2 films (“The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”) I preferred this film over those two.  It’s not perfect but it’s better realized than those were. My main issue with the film though is that I feel more needed to be explored about the riots.  I think most of the people that go to the film that aren’t from Detroit or an “urban” city might feel a bit unfulfilled and want to know more about the before and after(even though they most likely won’t go online to find out or ask someone that know’s more about it).  I don’t want another film about the 1967 riots made though.  As I noted earlier the only films I can think of set in Detroit don’t show it in a good way.  Next time I want more variety.  Heck a few years ago there was a “MOTOWN” musical play made.  Adapt that or how about a film about the founders of “Focus Hope”(Eleanor Josaitis & Father William T. Cunningham)?  It was an organization founded after the riots to help the people of Detroit.  It’s still around today making a difference.  Or hey how about ESPN’s Dick Vitale?  He was the former University of Detroit and Detroit Piston’s head coach.  He has an interesting story and an bombastic personality that would work on the big screen.

 

Oh well.

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