Detroit: Movie Man Jackson

It was once a great American who stated that “…riots do not develop out of thin air.” In America, circa 1967, The Civil Rights Movement is a major fabric of everyday life. The Long Hot Summer of 1967 comprises numerous race riots across the nation. From Newark to Tampa, the disenfranchised and overlooked African-American populace is tired of their voices being unheard.

None perhaps more so, than those who reside in Detroit. Sunday, July 23rd is the initial day of the five-day chaos, but the chaos peaks in the third day at the Algiers Motel. Shots ring out of the hotel window, which draw the local—and mostly white—police force to the scene to neutralize the situation. Here, they will make life an unbearable hell for all—mostly black individuals—who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Could we be entering into a period of historical movies that desire to focus on the event first more so than the people who make it up? Just a few weeks ago of this writing, Dunkirk released, focusing all of its attention to the event with little in the way given to the characters who are involved in it. It certainly is an interesting and respected decision, though one that made it hard to really get invested into for some. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark ThirtyDetroit is predominately concerned with an unnerving singular event, but also chooses to give some attention to a few characters before and after said event. In turn, going this route makes Detroit one of the toughest, yet strongest, watches of the year.

There’s been much discussion on whether Bigelow, a white female, was the right person to direct this film. My opinion? The experience on set her cast seems to outline paints the process as a collaborative one. Also, talent is talent, and Bigelow’s proven herself to be a sound director regardless of race or gender. Aside from a clunky and animated opening that sort of assumes the audience is a little dense, Kathryn’s style brings everything together. The handheld aesthetic and minimal score brings a noticeable rawness and unfiltered grit to everything that occurs in the film, but of course is most noticed in the prolonged 2nd act that is the Algiers Motel interrogation. Many words can be said about this entire act, but I’ll just leave one that doesn’t do it enough justice: Tense. Extremely…tense.

Detroit’s 2nd act is complete perfection, but its first and third acts, far from failures, aren’t nearly as flawless. In the first act, Bigelow and writer Mark Boal weave in and out of some of the main characters’ lives who will later be trapped in Algiers. This hopping around isn’t seamless, but, it does give the audience an opportunity to connect with some of these people, some of whom have more meat than others.

The final act simultaneously provides closure and foreshadows to the future. It could be a movie of its own, which is its biggest flaw because it doesn’t get the attention needed to resonate. Instead, these court proceedings and controlled interrogations end up feeling a little tacked on. However, one has to take into account that some of the specifics are imagined due to a lack of hardcore facts, and the movie doesn’t hide that in showing an end card that states this. With that in mind, the writer/director tandem team have done a largely impressive job of making this feel real and not overly Hollywoodized.

From a performance perspective, there isn’t one that qualifies as weak. From Jason Mitchell to Anthony Mackie to John Krasinski, everyone brings weight to their roles, even if the writing for their characters takes a backseat to the event. As stated, the event is the character itself. But, there are three characters that stand above the others and as such, three acting roles that could get some possible awards buzz. Algee Smith is probably the breakout star of Detroit as The Dramatics lead singer Larry Reed, a person with all the talent in the world that is too shook go back to what he did before. John Boyega as security officer Dismukes grapples with trying to maintain order while being looked upon as a sellout by his people of color. The emotion he shows when interrogated later in the movie is outstanding. Lastly, officer Krauss (a combination of many officers during this period) is played by Will Poulter. It’s a nasty, frightening performance that never veers into cartoon territory.

Real life or stuff that reminds us of real life isn’t something we always want go to the movies for. It’s one reason why Detroit is polarizing and not being experienced by a wide audience, and honestly, that’s perfectly OK. But those willing to check into an uncomfortable moment of The Motor City’s history will likely be moved.


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Beverly Hills Cop II: Movie Man Jackson


“How the f*** can you steal a house? This…my uncle’s house!”

You can take the man out of Detroit but you can’t take Detroit out of the man. Beverly Hills Cop II reintroduces us to Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy), a wisecracking, eccentric, but extremely knowledgeable police officer. It has been about two years since Foley went over his superior’s head and solved his best friend’s murder out in Beverly Hills, and he has settled back into life in the Motor City.

Meanwhile in the 90210, the city is being hit left and right by highly precise robberies dubbed as the “Alphabet Crimes” due to what the criminals leave behind. Familiar faces Rosewood & Taggart (John Ashton, Judge Reinhold) are hot on the trail, but are quickly cast aside and demoted by their new and egotistical police chief. The case soon becomes personal, which Axel catches note of back in Detroit. Like before, Foley must again venture out into Beverly Hills and reunite with old partners to bring justice to those responsible.


The first Beverly Hills Cop firmly established itself as a fun, simple, and sort of bubbly comedy-action film, while simultaneously cementing its legacy as a 1980’s staple. With the box office numbers it brought in, it only made sense that a sequel was made. Beverly Hills Cop II like most second installments is bigger, louder, and more star filled. Unfortunately, it is also lazier, shoddier, and just less of a good time.

It isn’t a requirement for a comedy to have an amazing plot. But if it features sizable action and crime elements it is important for it to be at least respectable. With BHC II, the plot just comes off as so hackneyed and cobbled together that it severely lessens the enjoyment to be had with the movie. Additionally, there is one long subplot that involves Foley, a Ferrari, and his tag-a-long partner that a terrible waste of time. It would not be such a huge issue if this plot didn’t take itself so sternly, but this does carry more seriousness than it probably should. Within 30 minutes, I was uninterested in how things would play out. Like the first movie, there is no mystery as to who are the perpetrators are, making the bulk of this an elongated cat and mouse between cops and robbers.


If only the humor could offset the tepid story. Try as it may, there just isn’t enough on hand to do so. Eddie Murphy does bring the rawness to hilarious levels in certain scenes, but others scenes rely on Murphy simply being loud, as if that is enough to be funny. Axel Foley depends on characters and hijinks to get him to where he needs to go, and some elicit amazing comedy while others should have been left on the cutting room board.

His partners in crime are back again in Rosewood and Taggert. The two along with Murphy are the best things about the film, but even their act is worn. The film gives them more character aspects, but they are completely random (Rosewood now a big gun nut?) or lazy and cliche (Taggart as a cop with marital problems).

It would be nice if BHC II possessed some intriguing villains for our heroic trio to battle with, but alas, it isn’t meant to be. These Alphabet Crime baddies are so generic and plain that it hurts to think about. Again, the lack of solid villains could be forgiven more if the story didn’t take itself so hard, but since it does, there has to be more substance in this area. Though the writing or lack thereof is certainty a factor for the unappealing foils, the actors portraying these foils do no favors either.


They all are really dry, monotone, and indistinguishable (except for Brigitte Nielsen). Nielsen especially only serves as a pretty face. Maybe it is better this way as she isn’t someone who has ever been revered for her performances. Still, this points towards a larger problem in the movie: All women that appear here are either strippers, femme fatales, or behind desks, most all voiceless.

From a cinematic presentation standpoint, the movie falls awfully short as well. It switches more between Detroit and Beverly Hills, but you would never know by looking. Both places aesthetically look the same, so Detroit’s expanded inclusion is really unnecessary. Visuals aside, there never seems to be any cohesive direction. Many scenes just linger on and on with no end in sight for no reason. And yet, this problem pales in comparison to the editing. The editing itself is easily some of the worst I have ever witnessed. There is a laundry list of fails and gaffes and one wonders how so many stayed in or were unseen.

Even with an expanded budget and a comedian in his prime Murphy Beverly Hills Cop II lacks the freshness and endearment that made the first a classic, making this return trip much less memorable.

Grade: D

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Brick Mansions: Movie Man Jackson


“Sometimes you don’t need to be a rocket scientist. You just need a rocket!”

Dystopian Detroit. Criminal exploits. No name thugs. Guns and drugs. These are probably words, phrases, and tags seen before in other movies, and apt descriptors of Brick Mansions. The movie is a remake of 2004’s french title District B13 and stars the late Paul Walker as police officer Damien Collier. For about a year, Damien has been undercover looking to take down Tremaine (RZA), a kingpin who also killed Damien’s father while he was in the line of duty.

Tremaine is the most dangerous of Detroit’s criminal underworld, and this underworld is housed in Brick Mansions, a place so dangerous they built a wall around it to protect the rest of the city. Brick Mansions, once a place of great prosperity, is now a hellhole no man or woman should venture into.

To take down Tremaine though, Damien will have to do just that. But he is going to need help, Lino Dupree is an in and out con who isn’t really a bad guy, but more of a victim of circumstance. As a resident, he knows Brick Mansions like the back of his hand. For Lino, it becomes personal when his girlfriend is taken hostage by Tremaine. What is worse is the rocket bomb located somewhere in the projects, which will demolish Detroit in 10 hours if not stopped. To save Detroit and exact revenge, the reluctant duo must come together for a common cause.


Brick Mansions is not going to blow anyone away, which should not be appalling looking at the trailers. It really does possess a straight to home media vibe, from the cast to the direction. But you know what? I did not think it was completely terrible and dare I say I was still kind of entertained, all because I knew what I was getting into. In no way does this absolve the film’s problems, and it was not worth 11 dollars, but I have felt much worse spending my hard earned cash on other cinema films.

Let’s get right down to the acting, specifically Paul Walker’s in his last full role. It is not controversial to call Mr. Walker an average actor, and many of the roles and movies he starred in were never that acclaimed. He knew his limitations, and there is no fault in that. One thing he often had in most roles though was screen presence and silent charisma, which is evident here. It may sound politically correct, but he really is the best thing about Brick Mansions. Likable, endearing, and just a good guy to pull for.


As for the rest of the acting, it is downright abysmal. Maybe a quarter of this is due to the dreadful dialogue, which falls into the typical hard sounding thug talk that is supposed to be realistic and fear-invoking, but comes off as dated and hilarious. David Belle, one of the founders of Parkour, brings amazing physical feats to the silver screen, but his acting chops are nonexistent. To add insult to injury, he clearly struggles with the English language which ends up resulting in horribly dubbed dialogue.

Still, he is not the worst actor in this movie. That title indisputably belongs to RZA. His Tremaine is supposed to be menacing and unflinching, but time and time again he brings the same facial expression to the character, and the dialogue delivered by him may be the worst heard all year. He has no thespian talent, plain and simple, and it is time that Hollywood stop giving this man so many chances. Honestly, there are worse actors present, especially RZA’s main henchman who is just as offensive, but none have the billing that RZA does in this.


The plot itself is nothing to write home about, and is somewhat absurd and slightly predictable. Just take it for what it is. There are times late when the movie makes thinly veiled allusions to present day Detroit and the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it basically is a popcorn movie existing to showcase guns, stunts, and fisticuffs. The only big issue had is that everything wraps up too nicely given that the movie was a full on war moments before. As a whole, it is nothing that hasn’t been done or seen previously (and better at that), but at least it only last 90 minutes.

There really are some well done set pieces from time to time. Parkour may be a passing fad now, but when done right, it is still a treat to witness, and David Belle moves effortlessly between chasms and rooftops seamlessly. Paul Walker provides more hand to hand and firearm combat, and he looks right at home in this element. Problem is, director Camille Delamarre (Taken 2, Transporter 3, Columbiana) uses terrible framing and janky editing during a lot of these scenes. It is quite sad, as Belle and Walker are clearly doing some good things. For some asinine reason though, this man insists that wobbly framing, needless zooms and archaic Matrix-like slow motion is needed. Not all looked bad, but a more consistent steady hand could have worked wonders.


Brick Mansions is unimpressive, but crazy to say, also enjoyable. Heavily flawed, but entertaining (in a bad way half of the time) and fast paced enough to check out through rental or Netflix. Non action fans should avoid at all costs. With tempered expectations though, Walker fans and action fans may find enough here for mild satisfaction. A perfect film to throw on in the background and not think too much.

Grade: C-

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