89 / 100
Watchable Minutes : 115 / 115. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and thought that every minute was worth watching. There’s a lot of minor details that are not totally hidden, but require you to pay attention for most of the run time.
Trailer Comparison : This trailer does a good job of hiding what the subplot of the movie is about. I had no idea that this would be a corporate conspiracy side quest (spoiler alert), but I’m glad that it was cut to show more of a traditional gangster crime flick.
Movie or Film : This is a movie, no doubt about. I understood the motifs of racism and environmentalism and while both are very important, neither one really swayed me into thinking this is a film. Had Soderbergh committed to one or the other, I think I could have put this in the film category.
- Run time : 1 hr 55 min
- Studio : Warner Bros.
- Director : Steven Soderbergh
- Where to Watch : HBO Max
Detroit 1954 – Three low level gangsters are hired to do a job for an unknown mastermind. Their task is to steal a classified document but when things go awry, the game changes and the criminals are forced to deal themselves into a much larger conspiracy. Now, the criminals must figure out how high up this conspiracy goes in order to escape with their lives and a payday.
Right off the bat, I found the story to be just a hair too complicated. If they had made it so that Curt and Ronald were wanted by the same man, instead of two different guys, I think it would have been a little more streamlined. Also, I was hoping to actually see the diagrams that John Hamm’s character Det. Finney mentioned. I think that would have gone a long way as a simple visual explanation, but I see why Soderbergh opted to not go that way. It’s a little too cliché of the heist / crime genre to have the entire thing broken down just to explain to the audience what was going on. The rest of the movie felt clean and sharp, without any large questions that impacted my enjoyment of the movie. I thought I was getting into a gangster flick with some light heisting, but it turned into something much bigger than that about halfway through the movie. It was a neat change of stakes with a mostly satisfying conclusion. I would have liked to see the resolution with the Wertz family and Curtis, as I feel that they still had some story left to tell but when you compare it to the larger stakes of the second half of the movie, they feel a little irrelevant. With that minor complaint, the overall writing and directing by the duo of Soderbergh and Ed Solomon is spectacular. Each character was smart and well developed with plenty of motivation to make their actions seem realistic. There wasn’t a moment where I was like “why did they do that” and there weren’t any unnecessary sell outs or double crosses that made me mad at any of the characters. They all stayed inside their lanes and played their parts well, while still managing to get some character growth.
The cast of this movie is very well done too. Don Cheadle has not been limited by his Marvel association and continues to go to work in other genres. He played Curtis with intelligence and a cool calculating demeanor that really sold him as the lead. He didn’t seem phased when things went against him, but he stayed calm and on his feet instead of becoming helpless. Benicio Del Toro was an excellent choice to play Ronald Russo. Del Toro has the chops to be a leading man, but I think that he’s better suited in the support role. I’m still annoyed at his character in The Last Jedi, but that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of his acting in this movie because he essentially played the same type of scum bag that will only help you out as long as he is benefiting from it and then he’s gone. The remainder of the supporting cast included other A listers like John Hamm, Ray Liotta, and Matt Damon with David Harbour and Brendan Fraser rounding out the rest. When you have this much talent on screen, it can sometimes be a problem to give everybody their moment without expense to the story but I think that it was proportioned out correctly. I’m glad to see Brendan Fraser (the internet’s newest good boi) getting work and appearing in movies again, even if it was just for a short while with this movie.
As we move into the look, sound, and feel of the movie, did you notice it? The fish eye lens that made the edges of the scene look weird? Of course you did, how could you not? I’m all for it, #TeamFishEye all the way. I think it was a neat idea and it wasn’t too distracting once I got used to it. There were some scenes were it stuck out a little more than others, but nothing that I couldn’t get past. I think it accentuated the mid 1950s vibe of Detroit by looking at it with that wide eye of curiosity as we figure out what is really going on with the characters. The rest of the movie looked great, with plenty of detail and interesting camera work that kept my eyes on screen and not on my phone. The whole movie was accompanied by the low, rhythmic bass thumping that sounded like I was in a jazz club. It fit the aesthetic to a T and really amplified my immersion into this world, even though I was watching it on my TV in my living room. I think if I had a speaker system or a decent soundbar, I would have enjoyed it even more.
I really enjoyed this movie. After letting it sit for a day or two, I didn’t find myself thinking about it for hours like I have with other movies I watched recently. I don’t think I’ll watch it again any time soon, but that isn’t because it’s bad. The drastic left turn that this movie takes at the half way mark really makes this movie what it is. As I mentioned several times now, if it was just a little more streamlined, my score would have been higher. I also had the complaint about some loose ends that I wanted to see wrapped up, but I understand why they weren’t. I think that Solomon and Soderbergh could have figured something out to make it work, but oh well. I’m comfortable putting this right at an 89 despite those issues, because everything else really worked for me and I think it will for most people because it’s an interesting and entertaining movie about Detroit and why it fell from grace as one of the former greatest cities in the country.
If you like this, check out :
- Ocean’s 11
- The Italian Job
- Logan Lucky