DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

DETROIT 9000 (director/writer: Arthur Marks; screenwriters: Orville H. Hampton/ based on a story by Marks and Hampton; cinematographer: Harry May; editor: Richard Greer; music:  Luchi DeJesus; cast: Alex Rocco (Lieut. Danny Bassett), Hari Rhodes (Sgt. Jesse Williams), C (Roby Harris), John Nichols (Detroit police commissioner), Vonetta McGee (Hooker), Ella Edwards (Helen Durbin), Scatman Crothers (the Reverend Markham), Rudy Challenger (Aubrey Hale Clayton); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Arthur Marks; Miramax; 1973)

"Its sleaze does justice to the downtrodden once mighty city."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Arthur Marks ("Friday Foster"/"Bucktown"/"The Roommates") co-writes and directs the cynical, crude and violent blaxploitation thriller without any special appeal, even though he's a noted specialist in this genre. It's based on a story by Marks and co-writer Orville H. Hampton. If looking for a bright spot on a rather dark film, without much visual style, it can be said that the film makes good use of its ghetto locale. Its promotional ads said this about Detroit: "it's the murder capital of the world--Motortown, where the honkies are the minority race."

Jewel and cash thieves, in masked hoods and white dinner jackets, burst into the ballroom and steal $400,000 worth of stuff from those attending a festival celebrating black heroes in history, in Detroit, that in reality is a fundraiser used to promote the candidacy of Michigan's first black governor--the congressman Aubrey Hale Clayton (Rudy Challenger). Reverend Markham (Scatman Crothers) is the emcee of the event. The investigating cops are black Sgt. Jesse Williams (Hari Rhodes) and white Lt. Danny Bassett (Alex Rocco). The big question is whether the thieves were white or black. The racially tense community is waiting to see who did the foul deed, so they can react along racial lines.

What follows is a police procedural film that features a host of stereotyped pimps, thugs, hookers and racists. The film never manages to become interesting or does it promote anything but moral ambiguity, as it tries to please its targeted black audience with easy laughs at the expense of whitey.

The 9000 in the title is police talk for when an officer is in trouble.

Vonetta McGee plays a hooker. John Nichols, the real Detroit police commissioner, plays himself.

The comedy is at a low level, its political awareness is unenlightening and its continual action-packed car, boat and foot chases are too familiar to wow the viewer. But it's energetic and its sleaze does justice to the downtrodden once mighty city. It's no better or worse than most of the blaxploitation films of the time, which is not saying much.

REVIEWED ON 2/18/2015       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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