I saw this film with my political and “woke” boyfriend who still couldn’t seem to understand what this movie was about. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be understood. Maybe it’s something that defies logic purposefully. My response to his search for meaning: maybe, this movie is about Cassius Green (Lekeith Stanfield) and Detroit (Tessa Thomson) navigating a world not built for them.
Cassius feels as if his life has no meaning and feels inadequate compared to his girlfriend, Detroit: an emerging performance visual artist and sculptor. She sleeps, eats, and breathes political resistance (even down to her fashion: she wears different earrings the size of my palm, sporting different messages like “Murder, Murder, Murder,” and “Kill,Kill,Kill”). She loves Cassius because he’s “real” and has a keen moral compass (which he doesn’t seem to understand)………..at least until he starts working at the tele-marketing company.
Squeeze (Steven Yeun) enters the drama as a union activist, fighting for collective rights for the telemarketers. However, Cassius gets called in to his superiors’ office, not to get fired for his protest, but to be promoted. Once Cash starts using his “white voice” he begins to sell more than ever before. He begins to live the life he always wants to promise Detroit: endless wealth. At what cost?
Mr. Blank (Omari Harding) ushers Cash into a world of the big-boy sales…Cash had no idea what he’d be selling, and surprise: human beings and weapons of mass destruction. Cash loses himself and in turn, loses Detroit. Mr. Blank convinces Cash to attend a private party hosted by Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), which forces him to break his promise to stay for Detroit’s art exhibit’s grand opening.
At the party, the people surround him asking him to rap, which Cash can’t do. He starts screaming “Nigga Nigga Nigga” and the crowd loses their minds; they join in (mind you there are no other people of color in this crowd) in some topsy-turvy catharsis. Cash gets led to Mr. Blank’s office for a private meeting, people openly having sex around him, to discuss his future. After snorting cocaine, Mr. Blank shows Cash the video of the new human-horse species that would be working for him. For 5 years, Cash would be the leader they bought, on the inside, to make sure they follow orders. Unfortunately, before the video, Cash had already saw the writhing demonic creatures screaming in agony bound by chains. Later Cash realizes he had left his phone behind, recording, and threatens to release the horrible clip, exposing Mr. Blank’s scheme.
Unfortunately, it backfires and investors love the idea of a human-horse race. Little does Cash know that the coke he snorted was in fact the same formula to convert him. In his new form, he invades Mr. Blank’s house with other horse-humans.
The movie seems to revolve around the idea that minority cultures are pressured to work into a system that doesn’t work for them. They will be exploited to consume and consume until they are nothing but a copy of whatever advertisement clone has forced them to become. For security, they trade in their freedom. For wealth, they trade in their souls.
The artists, the union fighters, and the Equestrisapiens retain their dignity and together, they combat the oppressors. On one hand Cassius is nicknamed Cash, denoting the obsession for materialism and on the other, it distinctly associates with Cassius Clay, or better known as Mohammed Ali. Cassius, after shedding his money-lust identity, ultimately transforms into a fighter and leader of the new species. Detroit welcomes him back to his home and continues to fight by his side.
Overall the movie doesn’t make sense and shouldn’t have to. It is reinventing code and class. It’s an answer to the world built for the few. Its answer is for all. The answer is art, unity, and integrity.
Director: Boots Riley