It’s 1967 and Detroit is descending into chaos. A police raid escalates into rioting in the burning city. Police and the National Guard storm the streets to bring order. Instead they bring more turmoil and violence. People are shot and businesses destroyed in a city war zone.

     Larry (Algee Smith: The New Edition Story) and Fred (Jacob Latimore: Collateral Beauty) seek refuge at the Algiers Motel, renting a room for the night.

When a joke goes horribly wrong, police and National Guard raid the motel. They round up Larry, Fred, seven other black men and two white women and attempt to beat their way to answers. Egged on by fellow officers, Krauss (Will Poulter: War Machine), becomes unhinged.

    By the end of the night three people will be dead.

    Detroit is a docu-drama based on a true story. Director Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) combines footage and photos of the riots with dramatic recreations based on the testimony of survivors. The result is a film that’s brutal, terrifying and perhaps eye-opening.

    You’ll also see how little has changed. The footage could have been taken from the Baltimore riots, and 50-year-old stories of brutality are strikingly similar to those reported today. 

     Bigelow makes it clear that the officers aren’t an evil entity. We see plenty of compassionate, competent police trying to navigate the riots. But with many loath to report or contradict other officers, the corrupt ones are never taken to task. 

     As well as political commentary, Detroit delivers brilliant performances. Both Smith and Latimore are astounding as men desperate to survive the night. Also featured are nuanced performances from John Boyega (The Circle) and Anthony Mackie (All the Way). 

     Only Poulter falls short. His instigating cop, Krauss, often descends into menacing, snarling caricature. Poulter’s almost cartoonish evil detracts from the real terror. 

     Hard to watch and difficult to digest, this film covers important issues in a brutally honest way. It makes significant if not pleasant viewing.

Great Drama • R • 143 mins.

New this Week

Annabelle: Creation

     Samuel and Esther Mullins ­(Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) are despondent with grief at losing their daughter in a tragic accident. A doll-maker by trade, Samuel is haunted by her spirit, which asks to possess a doll so that she may live again. 

     Of course, the spirit that enters the doll is a malevolent entity. Samuel thinks locking up the doll will relieve them of the evil.

When they open their home as an orphanage, the curious girls discover the evil doll. 

    The origin story for the creepy doll that has starred in three movies, Annabelle: Creation is one more serving of typical horror shenanigans. 

Prospects: Flickering • R • 109 mins. 

The Glass Castle

    Rex Walls (Woody Harrelson) raises his family unconventionally. He moves a lot and teaches them philosophy. 

     As the children mature, they realize that Rex is alcoholic as well as eccentric, and that their unconventional life was due to his inability to cope with adult responsibilities. All flee the home but are drawn back when Dad becomes sick.

     Can the family reconcile the beauty and pain of their upbringing?

     Jeanette Walls’ autobiography of the same name was a conflicted tale about finding peace with her father. The movie seems to shift to romanticizing Rex and his dangerous parenting skills.

     Fans of Harrelson should enjoy his performance, but fans of Walls might resent the lack of nuance. 

Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 127 mins. 

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

     When Surly (Will Arnett) learns his forest home will be bulldozed for an amusement park, he rallies the wildlife to stop the construction. 

     Late summer is typically a time when studios release lackluster movies likely to turn a buck. That’s what’s delivered in this inane cartoon.

Prospects: Flickering • PG • 91 mins.