Detroit Parent Guide
A stark portrayal of a horrifying episode of police brutality, this film is too violent to recommend for teenage viewers.
Parent Movie Review
It is 1967, and Detroit is coming apart at the seams. A riot that started with a police raid on an unlicensed bar has spilled across the city and led to widespread looting, burning, and protesting. In an effort to reassert government control, Governor George Romney authorizes the deployment of the Michigan National Guard and President Johnson sends in Army paratroopers. Amid the chaos, young singer Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and his friend Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore) find refuge after curfew in the Algiers Motel. Unfortunately for them, the Motel is about to be ground zero for a night of racist violence. Police officers Phillip Krauss (Will Poulter), Ronald August (Jack Reynor), and Robert Paille (Ben O’Toole) have been cruising the streets looking for an excuse to use their shotguns, and when they hear a radio call about alleged sniper fire coming from the Algiers Motel, they seize the opportunity. Arriving along with the police are security guard Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) and National Guard Warrant Officer Roberts (Austin Hebert) and they soon find that the Detroit Police are out of control, and that everyone in the Motel is at risk…
Historical filmmaking is difficult, and I give this film a lot of credit for acknowledging its own weaknesses. A title card in the credits acknowledges that although the filmmakers have used witness testimony and available documentations, parts of the film had to be imaginatively constructed by the writers without direct historical sources. From what I can tell, the movie is largely true to the historical record, which is an achievement in and of itself. Indeed, according to Melvin Dismukes himself, the film is “95.5% accurate”. Whether his version of events is equally accurate is a matter of historical debate, but that’s quite an endorsement nonetheless.
The film is certainly immersive, and considering it runs for nearly two and a half hours, it’s a darn good thing, too. I’m not necessarily a fan of director Kathryn Bigelow’s shaky docu-drama style (as seen in films like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty), but it does seem to be effective in communicating a certain jittery reality. Strong performances from John Boyega and Algee Smith in particular (and the rest of the cast in general) further cement the viscerally emotional depiction of the harrowing events.
The story Detroit tells should make it a valuable educational resource, but the the constant profanity and brutal violence make this unsuitable for younger audiences – although both are certainly in keeping with the kind of behavior you might see in a riot. This is unfortunate, as this would be an excellent tool in bringing a little-discussed period of modern history to life for people. A solid understanding of the history of race-based protest and riots is always a good thing to have – now more than ever.Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Starring John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith. Running time: 143 minutes. Theatrical release August 4, 2017. Updated January 26, 2021
Rating & Content Info
Why is Detroit rated R? Detroit is rated R by the MPAA for strong violence and pervasive language.
Violence: The movie features frequent, explicit violence, often shown in realistic details with blood and tissue damage. There are graphic portrayals of torture and brutality. People are repeatedly shown being beaten and shot. A child is shot and killed. An individual is struck with a glass bottle. Real pictures of dead bodies are shown from old newspapers.
Sexual Content: There are crude sexual remarks and a facetious conversation about prostitution. There is a scene of brief nudity when a woman is involuntarily stripped by a cop. A woman’s breasts are visible.
Profanity: There are approximately 140 uses of coarse language, including 98 uses of the sexual expletive and 24 uses of scatological cursing. There are also frequent racial slurs and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People are briefly shown drinking alcohol. Characters are frequently shown smoking tobacco, and once briefly shown smoking marijuana.
Page last updated January 26, 2021
Detroit Parents' Guide
Racial equality is somehow still an ongoing crisis in America. What steps have been taken since the 12th Street Riots to improve the lives of people of color? What kind of backlash has there been against those steps?
For people of colour in many countries, interactions with the police are one of the most dangerous parts of their lives. In the United States, 1 in every 1,000 non-white males can expect to be killed by the police, making them two and half times more likely to be killed than their white counterparts. Racial bias is, clearly, fatal for many people. What kind of reforms could be instituted to address this? What can you do to be involved in the solution?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
John Hersey’s The Algiers Motel Incident is a detailed recounting of what really happened on that violent night in Detroit.
For a more modern take on the plight of African American communities, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me is a semi-autobiographical epistolary book focusing on his experience as a black man in America. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is geared more towards young adults and focuses on the story of 16-year-old Starr Carter, who watches a white cop shoot her childhood friend.
News About "Detroit"
History remains a little mysterious about the events, now called the Algiers Motel Incident, which happened during the Detroit Race Riot of 1967. During the height of the police raid on the city, three black teenagers were shot to death in the shabby establishment. Police statements and the accounts of witnesses don't give much insight into the truth of the situtation.
Such events lend themselves well to movie scripts, because there is a lot of room for artistic license.
The script may prove timely. Even though 50 years have past, news events report that there is still a cry to remember
The most recent home video release of Detroit movie is December 12, 2017. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
There are a number of films about the civil rights movement in America. Mississippi Burning is about the murder of three young civil rights workers in Jessup County and the investigation that follows. Selma focuses on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voting rights marches between Selma and Montgomery. Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington, shows the less non-violent side of the civil rights movement. Green Book, with Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, sends a young black pianist on a tour through the Deep South with an Italian-American bodyguard. To see what happens after the arrests, Just Mercy explores the flaws in the justice system with special attention on the death penalty. For a less gruesome but equally harrowing look at race in the United States, If Beale Street Could Talk follows a young black couple in New York who are torn apart by a false conviction.