From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Back in the 90's, Quentin Tarantino started a company called Rolling Thunder Pictures, named after a good Drama/Thriller flick of the same name. Its purpose was to re-release old exploitation flicks as well as modern arthouse films like Chungking Express. Unfortunately, the company was folded in just a few years since these movies didn't gather a large crowd like what mainstream pictures at the time did. However, the company is well-known today for its attempt to revive three old exploitation flicks back in theaters and on video. Those films were Mighty Peking Man, Switchblade Sisters and, of course, Detroit 9000. Judging from the trailer itself, D-9000 looked more like a generic buddy cop flick with a group of black actors and actresses, but after watching it, it turned out to be an interesting Blaxploitation film that has a smart commentary on race issues around the time.
After a $400,000 robbery at a fund raising event for Rep. Aubrey (Rudy Challenger), a black candidate for Detroit governor, the police department gets a lot of heat from the press and citizens because everyone is wondering whether this crime is related to racism or not. So the cops choose Danny (Alex Rocco), a grumpy white man, to work with Jesse (Hari Rhodes), a smart black cop. Things don't go very well not only because of the pressures about race, but also the fact that Danny is afraid that his black fellow cop will get more credit than him. As time passes, the relationship between Danny and Jesse seems to get a little bit better. What they have no idea about is that there's both a plot twist and betrayal waiting for them ahead.
There are internet reviewers out there who consider this an straight forward Action/Thriller instead of Blaxploitation since our lead character isn't the anti-hero type (like a pimp or a guy who doesn't give a damn about the establishment), but I disagree with this since the plot points out the topic about a clash between whites and blacks as well as its effect. In fact, this is what Danny says before he accepts to do the case...
"Let's say I find out black assholes pulled this heist. The brothers will claim cover-up. If I say the whites did it, the honkeys will say we're pacifying the black community. And if I don't crack this case, you and the department are off the hook, but I get the shaft right up my tender keister."
Sadly, it somehow reflects the racial tension nowadays as well. No matter how you present the story, there's going to be someone who gets angry and refuses to accept the truth. Also, there's another interesting character in this movie: Danny's wife. Although she appears only in one scene and doesn't contribute anything to the story, she gives us an interesting dialogue. Since she's sick and has to stay in the hospital until they can find the cure for her (which is almost impossible), here's what she says to Danny...
"I get nightmares...black hands, black faces all over me. And when I wake up and ring, what do I get? More black faces."
And after Danny tries to calm her down by saying that he'll move her to Hamtramck, she replies...
"Oh, no. You're not putting me in there. Not with all those bohunks and Pollocks."
I mean, what the hell is going on here? She's whiny and using more racial slurs than a standard episode of All In The Family! Later on, Jesse's girlfriend speculates that because Danny feels that he's a minority in Detroit (since the state majority is black), he never gets along with black people well. Is her guess correct? I'm not going to answer here.
It's not only race issues that makes this film timeless, the action sequences are another thing that many people remember about it. The shootout scenes are surprisingly gory (I don't care how many reviewers make fun of the orange-blood color). I mean, remember the original version of 1978 Dawn Of The Dead? It had pink blood before being changed in DVD/Blu-Ray release and is still exciting as hell.
At the end of the film, we have an epic 10 minute foot/car/horse chase! It's thrilling and surprisingly good considering that Detroit 9000 is just a low-budget 70s exploitation film.
With an interesting script, bloody action scenes, and cool plot twist (that I didn't see coming!), Detroit 9000 is an example of another underrated Blaxploitation film from the 70's that surfaced again thanks to Mr. Tarantino. Recommended.
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.