Amidst the chaos of the Detroit Rebellion, with the city under curfew and as the Michigan National Guard patrolled the streets, three young African American men were murdered at the Algiers Motel.
July 23, 1967, remains to be an historical date as the first day of the 3-day span of racially-charged riots which occurred in Detroit, Michigan. Known infamously as the 12th Street Riots, the events inside of the Algiers Motel on July 25th, 1967, left three African-American men dead and nine others savagely beaten. The actions of the police officers assigned to cover the riots exposed Detroit as a hotbed of racism and left an indelible mark on every African-American in the city. These events that followed these actions initiated a fury of outrage amongst the citizens on both sides of the law and impacted the singing group of artists known today as The Dramatics.
A group of young singers (The Dramatics) on the verge of their big break in front of a live audience never get the opportunity to display their talents as the escalating riot situation causes them to be ordered to leave the auditorium where they were about to perform. As the group dissipates into separate directions, a chance meeting with two young white females and a last-minute decision to book a room at the nearby Algiers Hotel changes their lives forever. The two young females, Julie (Hannah Murray and Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) lure two of the men, Larry (Algee Smith) and Fred (Jacob Latimore) into a room full of other African-American males who they have previously hooked up with. In the midst of the two being ridiculed by the others due to their awkwardness, the party takes a different turn as (Aubrey) Nathan Davis, Jr., decides to shoot a fake gun outside of the window to stir things up for the police who are outside shaking down looters. The police, who don’t seem to have control of the outside situation, make a decision to storm the hotel to look for an assumed sniper. As the white officers, lead by Officer Krauss (Will Poulter) descend upon the hotel, African-American Security Officer Dismukes (John Boyega), who is on another security assignment nearby, decides to go check out the Sniper situation as well. Within the first few minutes of the hotel being stormed, Aubrey, who is trying to run away, is shot dead and a knife is placed next to his side to cover it up and make it seem like self-defense. Officer Krauss, who is already under investigation for a previous unjustified shooting, begins to interrogate the group with emotional and physical abuse in order to beat the individual members into a confession of who had the gun. When no one confesses, the officers begin a game where they take one person out of the room and pretend to shoot them to scare the others into cooperating. When one of the cops misinterprets the game and actually kills one of the victims, they come up with a plan to release the individuals with the promise that they never saw anything happen. When another male refuses to go along with the game of forgetfulness, Krauss kills him as well and the entire group goes into defense mode to protect themselves. In the aftermath, every person who was in the room has been impacted greatly by the senseless beatings and racial disparity displayed from the officers. The singing group will never be the same and Dismukes finds that he has been set up to take the fall from the police officers.
Director Kathyrn Bigelow, who in 2010 became the first woman in Oscar History to win the Best Director Award, deserves mad props for her portrayal of the blatant racism which was the foundation of the riots. Her excellent casting of the critical roles and attention to implicit details in the storyline makes it well worth the energy put into it and makes this project worthy of reflection. While embarrassingly realistic and extremely painful to watch, this showing of residual racism is very reflective of the ongoing behavior that is just as real today as it was during the 12th Street Riots. Don’t miss the opportunity to reflect on the current relevance and to stay “woke.”
In theaters Friday, July 28th