The incident of the Algiers Motel should be given notice in this tense age of race relations, but with more examination than the obvious grotesque nature of what transpired. The script by Mark Boal seems more concerned with detailing the murky events and seeking a truth in the incident rather than finding some deeper understanding behind the bloody void between white and black. Seeking a dimension or deeper perspective of all these events and figures would make for a more timely and moving film as opposed to being another graphic reminder that racism eats away at the soul. The refusal to tackle how it got there makes the film come off with the anoesis of a B- book report.
I’m recommending Detroit more for what the film is about than what it presents. While it doesn’t romanticize the violence with any slow deaths or cutting away from carnage, the movie doesn’t dig past its fearsomely gritty exterior. It ends with Larry Reed (Algee Smith), once okay with whites, now appalled to even work in the same room with them after being beaten in the motel by white cops. He decides against making music for white people and favors heading the choir of a black church, feeling safer and less disgusted around his own kind.
There’s a sadness in such an ending where the riots drove a massive wedge between colors, but I’m not sure it comes across here as well as it should. I can’t help but feel Bigelow has missed something with her film that ends up being more textbook with its horrors, giving an it’s-complicated shrugging of grander themes left unexplored. As a reactionary and emotional piece, it’s successful, but I know Bigelow is capable of so much more.