Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Dramatics

Kathryn Bigelow directed "Fallen Heroes," the 2 hour sixth season finale of Homicide: Life on the Street in 1998. And while I was a fan of the series and had then not yet seen its early seasons (which are tremendous in quality) I was religiously watching and taping that season. "Fallen Heroes" is explosive for concluding vendettas that had gone back to earlier seasons involving the GEORGIA RAE character in a shootout with her nephew JUNIOR BUNK (Mekhi Phifer) where, in custody, in the homicide office of the Baltimore P.D., handcuffed, he manages to gain hold of a pistol, murdering and injuring several cops in a lengthy sequence. Or as I remember it, the scene where the young black gangster blows away a shitload of white cops.

Then there's The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012). I love Kathryn Bigelow.

And I have a long standing theory that Homicide: Life on the Street influenced Lars von Trier to adopt his handheld documentary realism approach to everything from The Kingdom (1994) and Breaking the Waves (1996) to Dogme 95, which beginning in the late 90s would prove one of the biggest cinematic trends of the twentieth century. In the 2000s it's cult fanaticism died down some, but not for Kathryn Bigelow. With The Hurt Locker, she found collaborator Barry Ackroyd, B.S.C., who previously had honed the very same style of camerawork to perfection in United 93 (2006, Paul Greengrass).


Detroit (2017, Bigelow) is an historic agitprop riot-police brutality drama set in 1967. Barry Ackroyd's subjective handheld gritty camerawork paints canvases of rioting masses in night urban exteriors. Kathryn Bigelow contrasts a racist evil white cop helplessly giving into his violent impulses as he desperately tries to maintain justice in the middle of a huge riot with a Christian pious black Motown singer with an angelic voice and his friends being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This might all seem outrageous, but I'm a huge fan of the way it all goes down. The bulk of the first two acts comprise harrowing racism, police brutality, corruption, and rioting with large scale scenes of huge crowds interspersed with old bits of historical footage that is so convincing if you ask me I think it's all real, then segues into a nightmare claustrophobic raid at the Algiers motel.

Is there a riot genre in movies? Recently I got to enjoy the superb ESPN doc O.J.: Made in America (2016), which delves into the history the LAPD and 1965 Watts riots. And a lot of the same footage is used in the prologue of Menace II Society (1993, The Hughes Bros.), which sets the right tone for what follows in that movie. Remember in 1992 when Spike Lee and other celebrities were wearing Starter baseball caps that had a block all-caps arch font of the word LOOTERS? The rest is fuzzy, but after the 1992 L.A. riots the movie had to change its name to Trespass (1992, Walter Hill) and the movie also has nothing to do with riots. What a let down.

Detroit took me into the riot and left me there, with Bigelow's painterly eye and sense of textures utilizing tapestries of a decaying city. And the coda courtroom proceedings with loathsome Krasinski giving us something to hate pulled me out of my seat with outrage. Okay, I saw this coming but still, I became susceptible to my own anger over injustice. The cops. The courts. Anyway I guess the politically correct thing to say here is: even though this kind of situation may happen, it doesn't happen all the time.

What a beautifully complex series of questions to leave Detroit with. I feel like it's all really provocative and I wasn't let down. Okay but also something just kind of hit me: if Zero Dark Thirty could maybe look to some people like Bigelow embellished facts about the methods used to capture UBL and in a way implies support of torture, Detroit could be a definitive counterstance that shows how typically torture ends hopelessly and destructively without uncovering any new clues.

Labels: ,

0 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Post a Comment

<< Home