(director: Kathryn Bigelow; screenwriter: Mark Boal; cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd; editor: William Goldenberg; music: James Newton Howard; cast: John Boyega (Dismukes), Will Poulter (Krauss), Algee Smith (Larry), Jacob Latimore (Fred), Jason Mitchell (Carl), Hannah Murray (Julie), Kaitlyn Dever (Karen), Jack Reynor (Demens), Ben O’Toole (Flynn), Nathan Davis Jr. (Aubrey), Peyton ‘Alex’ Smith (Lee), Malcolm David Kelley (Michael), Joseph David Jones (Morris), Laz Alonso (Congressman Conyers), Ephraim Sykes (Jimmy), Leon Thomas III (Darryl), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Aubrey Pollard, Sr.), Chris Chalk (Officer Frank), Jeremy Strong (Attorney Lang), Austin Hebert (Warrant Officer Roberts), Miguel Pimentel (Malcolm), Khris Davis (Blind Pig Patron), John Krasinski(Attorney Auerbach); Runtime: 143; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Matthew Budman, Megan Ellison, Colin Wilson; Annapurna; 2017)
“A condemnation of police violence.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”/”The Hurt Locker”) liberal take on the Detroit riot by blacks on July 23, 1967 becomes a condemnation of police violence. Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal rest their case of systemic racism in Detroit as the cause of the riot. It’s a gripping story about the days of civil unrest that started in the black section after a police raid on the unlicensed social club the Blind Pig, located on the second floor of a printing company. The four-day riot found 43 dead, 1,100 injured and some 700 arrests, in a city rife with looters and burning buildings. The riot was fought by the mostly white city and state police and the National Guard.
The partygoers are welcoming home two Vietnam War soldiers when raided by the police and roughly tossed into paddy wagons. A mob gathers in the street and starts hurling bottles and bricks at the police and things escalate with the arrival of more police and mob looting and arson.
On the third day of the riot, at the third-rate Algiers Motel, seven black men and two white teenager women are confronted by police after a sniper gunshot is reported from their room aimed at a National Guard unit. The police humiliate and abuse their suspects, which eventually results in the death of three of the black youths. The young officer in charge is the blatantly racist Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), who was responsible for the unprofessional sadistic scene. Though charged previously with the murder of an unarmed looter, he was returned to duty. Later he was exonerated. Other characters involved in the motel incident are a black factory worker (John Boyega) working a second job as a uniformed security guard, who is helpless in aiding his brothers. Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore) and the lead singer Larry Reed (Algee Smith) are members of an aspiring doo-wop group, The Dramatics. Robert Greene (Antony Mackie) is an unemployed paratrooper veteran. Julie Ann Hysell (Hannah Murray) and Karen Malloy (Kaitlyn Dever) are spirited but unwise white teenage hitchhikers from Columbus, Ohio.
There’s also the joker fool responsible for bringing in the police, Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), whose action of firing a toy starter pistol out the motel window at the jumpy National Guard.The long drawn-out in-your-face shocking motel sequences are effective in depicting the mindless violence and overt racism present back then. But its social commentary is so blunt however it leaves you emotionally numb. By focusing solely on one sordid incident, it deadens the big issues raised over the culture of the city while leaving you, perhaps, emotionally disengaged from the whole riot. The film was shot in a largely documentary style, and included actual newsreel footage.
REVIEWED ON 12/20/2017 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/