MOVIE BUFF-ET: Well-crafted ‘Detroit’ a nauseating picture of racism, ignorance, violence

Annapurna Pictures

“Detroit” is a complex film by a complex filmmaker in Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow.

Unlike Spike Lee’s more artful 1990 movie “Do the Right Thing” or the clever, Twilight Zone-treatment of subtle racism “Get Out” by director Jordan Peele, “Detroit” is a straight-forward drama told in a no-holds barred manner.

While the other two movies make their points well, a viewer can find some peace, some enjoyment, and some entertainment in them despite the raw subject matter. Coming out of Bigelow’s film, I felt like my soul had been pistol-whipped, experiencing shame for the atrocities committed simply because of a difference in skin tone.

New In Local Theaters

  • Annabelle: Creation (R) 1 hr. 9 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (PG) 1 hr. 38 min.
    (Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (PG) 1 hr. 31 min.
    (Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle, AMC Fiesta Square)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Glass Castle (PG-13) 2 hr. 27 min.
    (Malco Pinnacle, AMC Fiesta Square)
    » Watch trailer
  • Pilgrimage (NR) 1 hr. 32 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square)
    » Watch trailer

The film is the dramatization of the Algiers Motel incident, in which three African-American men were killed and 6 other people brutalized by white police amid the 12th Street Riot, which occurred on July 23, 1967.

A raid on an African-American speakeasy ignited a tinder keg of violence in the neighborhood. A prank involving a starter pistol escalated into a nightmarish situation that resulted in three murders and no justice for the victims or their survivors.

Screenwriter and former journalist Mark Boal conducted extensive research on the tragedy, and his work bears fruit in the film. However, he also extrapolated aspects of the screenplay to supplement the facts while crafting the narrative. The film isn’t a documentary, and it does not even attempt to play like one.

If the bulk of the movie weren’t based on facts, the movie could be confused as a horror film along the lines of “The Purge.” While some horror movies can create a cathartic feeling for the viewer, I was simply depressed and nauseated after watching the events depicted in the film.

The film is well crafted by Bigelow, who won an Oscar for directing “The Hurt Locker” (2008), and acclaim for films like “Point Break” (1991),“Zero Dark Thirty,” (2012),“Strange Days,” (1995) and “The Weight of Water” (2000), but the film lost its way for me in its staggering yet believable depiction of racism, hate, violence, ignorance and perhaps worst of all indifference to those acts.

Algee Smith and Jacob Latimore deliver particularly strong performances as Larry Reed, a vocalist for an R&B group the “Dramatics,” and Fred Temple, a supportive friend.

Seeking refuge from the riots in the Algiers Motel, the two get caught up in a hellish situation, driven by a sociopathic, racist cop, portrayed by Will Poulter. Poulter’s boyish face only makes his character that much more menacing.

John Boyega’s low-key performance as Melvin Dukes, an African-American security guard, who attempts to deescalate the incident to save lives shows the young actor’s maturity and range.

Bigelow’s film is a smack to the face. It effectively shows the blunt, destructive force ignorance, fear, and hate can create. “Detroit” is by no means a fun night at the movies, but it is a story that resonates strongly within our society, and one that deserved to be told.

(R) 2 hr. 23 min.
Grade B+

Special Showing

Batman and Harley Quinn
Malco Razorback / 7 p.m. Aug. 14 / PG-13 / 1 hr. 16 min.

The Malco Razorback will hold a special, single showing of “Batman and Harley Quinn” at 7:30 p.m. Monday. The animated feature that will be released direct to video on Aug. 31 reunites the key players who created “Batman: The Animated Series” in the 1990s for a new adventure of the Dark Knight Detective.

In this adventure, Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) and his former sidekick Nightwing (Loren Lester) are forced to team with Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) to save Gotham and the rest of humanity from Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man’s nefarious plot. The story is written and produced by Bruce Timm, who was the chief creative force behind the Emmy-winning “Batman: Animated Series” and other shows featuring DC Comics characters including Superman, the Justice League, and Green Lantern.

Classic Corner

John Wayne Marathon

If you are a fan of John Wayne then Saturday, Aug. 12 is your day, and Turner Classic Movies is your channel. The Duke is the featured performer of the day in TCM’s annual August celebration “Summer Under the Stars.”

Beginning at 5 a.m., CST, 11 of Wayne’s films run back to back. Each movie is at the minimum entertaining, and several of them are classics, including the trio that runs from the late afternoon until nearly midnight.

I’d argue “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “The Quiet Man,” and “The Searchers” are three of Wayne’s four best films with “Red River” directed by Howard Hawkes being the fourth leg of that table.

Of course, there is room for debate, but all three are worth space on your DVR if you’ve never seen them.

Here’s Saturday’s schedule:

5 a.m. The Long Voyage Home (1940)
7 a.m. McClintock! (1963)
9:15 a.m. Chisum (1970)
11:15 a.m. Stagecoach (1939)
1 p.m. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
3 p.m. The Train Robbers (1973)
4:45 p.m. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
7 p.m. The Quiet Man (1952)
9:30 p.m. The Searchers (1956)
11:45 p.m. Rio Bravo (1959)
2:15 a.m. They Were Expendable (1945)