Tag Archives: Anthony Mackie

“Detroit”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The evocative and unnerving “Detroit” tells the true story of a trio of young African American men who were murdered at the Algiers Motel during the chaos and civil unrest of the 1967 Detroit race riots. Seven other black men and two white women were harassed and beaten by prejudiced police officers in that motel and if you take away the retro setting, it’s a thought provoking look at racial tension that’s sadly still relevant 50 years later.

This movie will make you angry, but it’ll make you angry for all the right reasons.

Those critical of the subject matter in this film are going to be the loudest dissenters, throwing around words like “irresponsible” and “anti-cop.” They’re going to accuse the studio of encouraging riots or inciting violence against police. Step back for a second and think: what does that say about the state of race relations in our country? If the portrayal of the police force is what disturbs you about this film, then you are the problem. No matter if you think the filmmaking is good or bad, this movie should empower everyone who sees it to stand up whenever they spot injustice, police brutality, or gross violations of a person’s civil rights.

Director Kathryn Bigelow has crafted a film that’s large in size and scope (with a nearly two and a half hour runtime). She puts her trademark shaky cam to good use, but it never becomes too distracting because here it works in the most unsettling way, making the audience feel like they have been thrust right in the middle of these riots. The riot scenes are incredibly accurate and meticulously detailed, framed by design to make you uncomfortable. I’m still not convinced that Bigelow deserves the accolades she’s always earned as a director, but her straightforward style (paired with an equally sincere script from her long time collaborator Mark Boal) is a good fit for the material.

It isn’t only the cultural relevance that makes this movie a success. The performances, no doubt difficult roles for everyone involved, are effective and disturbing on multiple levels. To spew racial epitaphs as police officers (Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, and Ben O’Toole) would be just as emotionally trying for an actor as taking that abuse as a black man (Anthony Mackie, Jacob Latimore, John Boyega, and Algee Smith). It would’ve been easy for a handful to fall into the overacting trap, yet not one performance rings false.

The accuracy of this retelling of events is up in the air, as the film seems to go to great lengths to create a sort of cinematic CYA letter over the end credits. There are many things portrayed that don’t make any sense (why wouldn’t teens confess that someone in the building had a starter pistol and instead choose to subject themselves to police brutality?) But even if it turns out only half the historical truths are correctly dramatized, it’s still chilling. Bigelow inserts plenty of historical footage to lend a disturbing credibility, from actual video interviews and news broadcasts to archival photographs of newspaper headlines.

The movie’s bookends are a bit of a puzzler because they do the film no favors. It opens with a strangely out of place story told in an animated folk art style and ends with a heavily religious theme that feels contrived and tacked on.

Even if the film isn’t perfect, “Detroit” is a powerfully disturbing thing to experience, a story that many in the younger generation don’t know about. It’s a cautionary tale of racial injustice that sadly feels more relevant than ever in our current political climate. It’s a story that deserves to be told and remembered. It’s a tragic history lesson from the past that everyone should wish Americans didn’t need in 2017.

“Triple 9”

LOUISA:   3 STARS    MATT:  4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

This formulaic, Michael Mann ripoff isn’t bad — it’s quite entertaining — but the plot is virtually non-existent and any audience member well versed in police dramas will have figured out how it all will end well before the final scene. It’s easy to watch and will keep you engaged, but there’s nothing really smart or groundbreaking with its classically dull “and then this happened” storytelling style. It’s just another run-of-the-mill dirty cop movie.

The film is flashy, stylish and well made by director John Hillcoat, but looks aren’t everything. Sadly, he was woefully unable to elicit great performances from the star-studded cast. How great is the cast? We’ve got Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr., Anthony Mackie, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, and Casey Affleck. (You’d be a fool to not want to see this movie based on the actors alone)! Problem is, this movie is so stuffed with talent that most of it is completely wasted. I wanted to see more of Affleck and Harrelson (channeling his far superior role as Marty Hart on “True Detective“). And poor Teresa Palmer, she’s just in the movie as screen dressing for a few scenes (and she’s half naked in most of them). There’s just too much going on for any of the characters to have a chance to be fully developed, and that’s a shame.

I got a very anti-cop vibe from the whole movie too. I didn’t like any of the police officers in the movie and it was unclear if I was supposed to be rooting for them. Most of the cops in the film are portrayed as having serious moral issues (and of course the obligatory drinking / drug problem). Not helping this perception was the movie’s closing track: Cypress Hill’s “Pigs.”

MATT SAYS:

In “Triple 9,” celebrated indie director John Hillcoat gives us a world populated with corrupt cops, war heroes, criminals, and gangsters where there is no solid line dividing the good and bad; instead, there are only shades of grey. Supported by a who’s who list of actors — including Anthony Mackie, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet — “Triple 9” is an ideal fit for the lover of crime dramas.

Hillcoat knows these characters and the world they live in. We have been here before in his previous movies, “Lawless,” “The Road,” and “The Proposition.” As in those movies, we are challenged with picking one character to identify with and root for. For most of his characters, we can understand their motivations and sympathize with them on some level, at the same time we dislike them on another.

While heists drive the story, they do not control it; the characters do. As for the latter, we have a number of chances for brief glimpses into their backstories that give us just enough — but not too much — information to help us understand why they do what they do. We care enough about them that when they are in peril, we are invested and worried for their safety. It is our investment in these characters and their survival that drives the suspense. We want them to do the right thing, and we want them to survive.

While it’s far from a perfect movie, “Triple 9” is a strong and worthy entry in the corrupt cop / crime drama genre, and definitely one worth seeing.