Movie Review: Detroit (2017)

Although its historic events are lavishly recreated and the cinematography and production values top-notch, Kathryn Bigelow’s panorama about the racially charged 12th Street Riot of 1967, Detroit (C), struggles to finds its dramatic POV or emotional center of gravity. The events depicted clearly resonate with modern times, what with the painstaking portrayals of police brutality and the themes of injustice and inequality in an urban powderkeg, but Bigelow’s fastidious chronicle fails to get in the heads of a cavalcade of underdeveloped characters. With some of the most authentic acting in the film, Algee Smith fares best as a Motown musician caught up in a crescendo of incidents after mid-riot sniper fire turns a group of people holed up at a hotel into brutalized suspects. John Boyega and Anthony Mackie are reduced to small parts as Will Poulter gets most of the scenery chewing as a wicked bad cop. He’s intense but feels miscast. It’s not completely clear why Bigelow lingers so long on certain incidents and not others; and while she creates flashes of pulse pounding tension, the story isn’t superbly served in the aggregate. The director’s formula that worked so brilliantly with soldiers diffusing land mines and raiding terrorist cells works only in fits and starts this time around.

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