Detroit 9000


With the ’67 riots still in people’s minds, 1973’s Detroit 9000 dialed up the racial tension. $400,000 is robbed from a campaign fundraiser for an ambitious black politician (Rudy Challenger), and the question quickly becomes whether this was whites attempting to keep blacks from office or “blacks robbing blacks.” Nobody really wants to answer it, either, which adds a barbed edge to a typical “buddy cop” pairing. Working-class white cop Danny Bassett (Alex Rocco) and educated/cool black cop Jesse Williams (Hari Rhodes) verbally spar, testing each other with minor racial jabs while on a stakeout. As with a lot of caper plots, the crime itself is less politically/racially motivated than it appears (the first big lead is an Indian corpse found in the Detroit River, confounding the preconceived narrative), which allows director Arthur Marks (from a screenplay by Orville H. Hampton) to turn the scrutiny on American power structure. The fundraiser for Challenger’s Representative Clayton, held at a ball intended to celebrate black heroes, is a calculated ploy: during a flashback given by call-girl Ruby (Vonetta McGee), Clayton details the sentiments he would play on with the help of a charismatic reverend (Scatman Crothers). When describing her shock at equally cold treatment from Clayton, Ruby is told by her pimp (Herb Jefferson, Jr., the primary antagonist), “Not every black man is your brother.” Danny and Jesse are under their own pressures (medical bills for his institutionalized wife and career aspirations, respectively, versus their sense of honor), leading to an unresolved, morally-ambiguous ending when one of them recovers the loot. Instead of the buddy cop trope of coming together in harmony, a splinter of mistrust becomes wedged. This leaves Jesse and Danny (and black/white relations) in a wary, tenuous place masked by superficial brotherhood and promoted by callous opportunists.


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