Director Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark
Thirty”) knows how to make an impact on the big screen, and she does
here, with “Detroit.” It’s
very difficult to watch, because it’s so emotionally wrenching.
The context is the race riots in Detroit in the summer of 1967.
But the focus is really on a specific incident that happened during
the riots, on the night of July 25th.
There, some Detroit policemen, frustrated in their unsuccessful
search for a suspected sniper, harassed, brutalized, and even committed
murder, among an innocent group of people who happened to be staying in
the Annex of The Algiers Hotel.
Admittedly, it was a highly-charged atmosphere, so much so that the
National Guard was called out to assist the police, and State troopers, as
well. But still, the stores
burned and the looters ran wild and many angry citizens took to the
streets to protest. But of
course that does not excuse the horrific behavior of the policemen
involved, who were worse than any KKK, because they wore the badges, and
had all the guns, and grossly abused their authority, because,
sickeningly, they enjoyed doing it .(Will Poulter's portrayal is
Director Bigelow spends just enough time developing the characters
that we viewers have an opportunity to get to know them.
Some of the hotel’s guests were
part of an aspiring singing group. There
was a returning Vietnam veteran, and some friends who were partying
together. Yes, there were a
couple of white girls there, as well, and they, too, were caught in the
systematic haranguing, and were singled out for disdain because they dared
to associate with black men.
There was a trial two years later, and the three policemen were
acquitted. The courtroom drama
seems tame by comparison, but it’s obvious that even then, racist
attitudes prevailed, and that, too, is hard to fathom this many years
later, except that we all know that racial tensions still exist in
America, even if, ostensibly, all are equal under the law.
It’s not exactly a rallying cry for “Back The Blue.”
They are not portrayed in a positive light.
But Director Bigelow doesn’t attempt to paint all police with the
same tainted brush; only these three.
And to see them act out their bigotry and hatred, because they can,
is a traumatic thing to witness.