By Dwight Brown
1967 Detroit. The raid of a Black after-hours club, the arrest of its patrons by police and general frustration with discrimination sets off days of riots and looting. One night, Larry Reed (Algee Smith, “The New Edition Story”) lead singer of the teen soul group The Dramatics is slated to do a debut performance in a Motown review at a theater that attracts Blacks and whites. Cops close the venue down, due to the imminent danger on the streets outside.
Larry and his buddy Fred Simple (Jacob Latimore, “The Maze Runner”) seek refuge at an $11-a-night motel called the Algiers. There they meet two White girls (Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever) and wind up talking to them in Larry’s room. Shots ring out from an Algiers’ motel window, which is near a National Guard prep area. The Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police and Michigan Army National Guard swarm the hotel, which is now under siege. They are led by local White patrolman Phillip Krauss (Will Poulter, “The Revenant”), who has just been reamed out by his commanding officer for shooting an unarmed looter in the back.
Krauss instigates an intimidation process, lines up some of the Black male hotel guests and the two White females against a wall in a hall and harass them. Verbal and physical abuse ensues. Krauss institutes a “death game”: The cops take a victim into a room, close the door, fire a shot and pretend to kill him. This ruse is designed to instill fear into the others and scare them into ratting on the guy who fired the shot from the window. Before the night is out, the police murder three Black males.