Author and travel writer Amy Eckert recently penned the guidebook 100 Things to Do in Detroit Before You Die in 2016, that discusses how Detroit has re-defined itself. Indeed, there is a current marketing campaign Detroit - America's Come Back City that focuses on reshaping the perceptions people might have of the Motor City. Amy's books points out the great attractions, venues and historical spots that are revitalizing the city.


Kathryn Bigelow's ("The Hurt Locker", "Zero Dark Thirty") latest film is an intense examination and reconstruction of what it is that Detroit is coming back from. It is a reflection of the 1967 12th Street riot that pit an all African American neighborhood against the racism of a mostly all-white Detroit police force. It would be the first of two riots in the all black neighborhood in less than a year (the 1968 MLK riots would follow).


Her film is centered around the still unresolved murders at the Algier's Motel in which three young African Americans were shot to death by Police. In the film Bigelow chose to change the names of the white police officers (though their real names are a matter of public record) but kept most of the other names the same.

The film opens with an illustrated animation telling the story of the Northern Migration of Southern Blacks after World War II. It's a nice refresher course for today's youth who may not know the history. Her illustrated story comes all the way to the racial tension and the uneven distribution of white police in the congested black neighborhoods and the lack of equal housing.


The live action starts with the police raid of a private party (called a blind pig) at the Economy Printing Company in which everyone was arrested. After the raid, thousand of blacks began looting and rioting against the white police presence. This led to the first murder by Officer Krauss (Will Poulter), when he shoots a black in the back with a shotgun and gets a free pass by the investigating detective.


This leaves him and his two partners to return to the streets to patrol for looters and snipers, which brings them to the Algiers hotel.

The Fox Theater was closed just before the singing group The Dramatics were to take the stage. When they encountered the rioting while trying to get home, they stopped at the Algiers to get a room as refuge from the riots down the street. Two of the singers, Larry (Algee Smith) and Fred (Jacob Latimore), wound up in the Annex building with two white girls - Julie (Hannah Murray) and Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) - a hothead named Carl (Jason Mitchell), Aubrey (Nathan Davis Jr), Lee (Peyton Smith) and Greene (Anthony Mackie).


Carl pulled a prank with a starter pistol which was misconstrued as sniper fire and drew the whole of the patrolling police force, the National Guard, Michigan State Police and... of course Krause and his posse. For some reason, Krause took the lead and began beating and terrorizing the now arrested occupants, having already killed Carl.


The film concentrates on the Algiers Motel Incident and the actions of the all the law enforcement officers, including Dismukes (John Boyega) an overly gung-ho security guard from across the street who assisted the police in an effort to keep everyone calm. But he didn't comprehend the amount racism that Krauss harbored and spread to his partners as they held their terror session over the hotel captives. Bigelow's film allows the National Guard and State Police to leave the scene as they want no part of a civil rights issue.


The performances are outstanding with Poulter offering a truly believable racist; his previous roles are forgettable performances in "The Revenant" and "The Maze Runner" but you can count this one as his game changing role. Also very good are Algee Smith and Jason Mitchell as the singers whose lives are scarred forever. Boyega is also impressive ass a guy trying to do the right thing but in a situation in which he is way over his head. It was curious that Mackie was used sparingly and such a weak character - he was good, but an interesting choice nevertheless. (He worked with Bigelow in "The Hurt Locker")


Once again Bigelow nails a docudrama right on the nose. The tension equals that of "The Hurt Locker" without being overly sympathetic. See keeps her story straight down the middle and offers possible answers; just like Oliver Stone's "JFK".


"Detroit" is an outstanding examination of the long-ago trouble times in what was once the nation's fifth largest city. It provides an sobering reflection of the issues that once plagued Motor City and still arise around the country today.   -- GEOFF BURTON