As you may have come to realize, my movie reviews of late have skewed toward humorous take-downs of poop movies. Sure, I enjoy praising legitimately decent movies, but who are we kidding: That ain't what I've got this blog for. Pooping on poop movies is not only more within my wheelhouse, but the wheelhouse itself is made of poop...which is sitting on other lesser poop...which is tarnished by the snarky poop sitting on top of it (don't bother asking me to decode this jumbled misuse of a metaphor; I don't even know what I was going for here...or what exactly the metaphor is).
And so I went into the blaxploitation pic Detroit 9000 hoping to hurl at least a few handfuls of feces, but, no, the movie had to be so, so, just so damn cool. From the look (you readers know I'm a sucker for sweet seventies style), to the unexpectedly nuanced political/social commentary, to the stunning Detroit location photography, to the soundtrack, to the action, to the...everything; this movie has it all. Sure it has some flaws—as I'll enumerate later—and some delightfully cheesy datedness, but this is a movie I found hard to make jokes toward. Who knows, maybe I was just lazy this week.
I'm not gonna bother detailing the plot of Arthur Marks' picture because I think you should just go ahead and watch it. Take my word for it. But because you'll wanna know at least a little about this movie before diving in, I'll give you a taste. Briefly, Alex Rocco (as the white cop Danny) and Hari Rhodes (as the black black cop Jesse) team up take on the case of the year: uncover the heist that netted half a million from a fundraiser for the campaign of the state's potential first black governor.
Also, here's just a bunch of cool imagery from the movie.
Now that all the dick-sucking is aside, I should note that Detroit 9000 is not without its faults. One of my chief complaints lies in the rather (relatively speaking) thin characterization of Jesse. Don't get me wrong, this guy's stool emits enough badassery/cool to fill ten movies; and he is a constant pleasure to watch. But, perhaps he's just a little too cool, at least compared to Danny. (Listen to me: complaining that the hero of a blaxploitation pic is too cool. What blasphemy.) You see, Rocco plays an ambiguous, deeply flawed, deeply human character; wheras Rhodes' cop exists somewhere in the stratosphere.
Obviously, as with all blaxplotation pictures, Detroit 9000 was rightfully working against, and actively laying waste to, a history of buffoonish, larcenous, lecherous portrayals of black folks in cinema. Detroit 9000 had to make Jesse as untroubled and as uncomplicated as possible to obliterate decades of damage inflicted on the image of black America by Hollywood.
Perhaps the fault lies with the complex characterization of Danny. If he had been written in a similarly simplistic vein, I wouldn't have even had any complaints with Jesse. But because Danny is such a troubled, complex character, I wanted more from his partner. Jesse is less a character and more a statement.
Detroit 900's biggest fault, paradoxically, is contained in its greatest strength: its ambiguous ending. I was surprised at the subtlety with which the film refused closure on an important plot point. And I would have enjoyed it more had the movie not spent the next five minutes or so hammering home what a bold and audacious movie it was to stage such an ending. Director Arthur Marks may as well have stepped in front of the camera and shouted, "Hey, look at how ambiguous this ending is. Isn't it ballsy that we're doing this? Seriously, we should get a fucking medal or something. Love me."
But, yeah, other than that this movie's tits.