Detroit movie poster

Remember the torture, er, enhanced interrogation scene in Zero Dark Thirty? The one that produced good intel that ultimately aided in the detection and subsequent elimination of Osama Bin Laden? Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are happy to repeat the theme here, as light-skinned folks once again abuse the dark-skinned folks in their power in an attempt to ferret out terrorists seeking to topple America. Only this time, the light-skinned folks are Detroit police, the dark-skinned folks are Detroit citizens, and the terrorists are snipers taking shots at the soldiers who have been called in to quell the race riot that erupted on that city’s streets in 1967. Oh, and one other thing: there’s no good intel to be had. Bigelow and Boal want to make a moral howl of a movie that burns with felt life, but they wind up with a failure of historical imagination that undermines a harrowing true story. Put another way: sometimes, no amount of good acting can overcome bad writing. (John Boyega is a standout in the former department as a security guard trying to maintain order without participating in the destruction of his fellow blacks, a thankless task that just keeps getting more thankless.) It’s bad enough that chief abuser Will Poulter is so cartoonishly evil that he becomes like the sun, obscuring all the other racist stars in the sky. But what’s worse is the sloppy job Boal does in assembling a narrative of the evening in question. (The examples are too numerous to list, but here are a couple: a cop can’t sell a “suspect went for my gun” story when said suspect has been shot in the back from a distance; a cop won’t say “we still need a suspect” when he’s already got one dead on the floor; and for goodness’ sake, why don’t the terrified innocents simply report what they saw?) The heart wants to throb in sympathy, but the head keeps being led to interfere. 2017.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

Comments

SalULloyd Aug. 7, 2017 @ 10:20 p.m.

Oh, any filmmaker giving torture a free pass discredits him or herself.

i criticized Acamando for letting a minor be a "guest reviewer" for ZERO DARK THIRTY and she banned me from KPBS at the time! LOL

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