BlacKkKlansman – Review

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2h 15min | Biography, Comedy, Crime | 10 August 2018 (USA)


Synopsis: From visionary filmmaker Spike Lee comes the incredible true story of an American hero. It’s the early 1970s, a time of great social upheaval as the struggle for civil rights rages on. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first African-American detective on the Colorado Springs Police Department, but his arrival is greeted with skepticism and open hostility by the department’s rank and file. Undaunted, Stallworth resolves to make a name for himself and a difference in his community. He bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan.

Review: Films like BlacKkKlansman are highly entertaining and powerfully engaging, but they should also hopefully stir up a righteous anger and a resolution for change; if nowhere but in your own actions. This is a crazy good film with characters ripped from history and plastered in all their ugliness on the big screen. There may not be a more socially and politically relevant film to hit theaters in decades. The fact that it took place almost 40 years ago and we are still fighting the same battles is saddening. All that said it is a fancy bit of filmmaking and highly recommended for adult movie goers.

The story was begging to be told. A black man infiltrates a local chapter of the Klan in the hopes of exposing its members and bringing them down. That alone should elicit thunderous applause. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) devices an ingenious plan and carries it out with the help of two other undercover detectives, played brilliantly by Adam Driver and Michael Buscemi. They must live and breathe the noxious world of the Klan and find a way to gather info. They themselves have to take on the persona and mindset of men who are driven by hate.

It needed a quirky narrative though. The subject matter and dialogue are far too heavy for viewers to carry. This one balances the raw, scarring reality with humorous performances. Not humorous as to take away from the message but more to soften the impact of what is happening. To help the viewer digest it at all. Making fun of the characters doesn’t cheapen it but rather allows the absurdity to shine through. Did people really think, act, and speak like this in an educated first world country like The United States?? Sadly the answer is not only “they did” but “they still do”. Without the humor I am not sure our minds could handle the impact.

Poor Topher Grace. It has to be hard to be an actor in a powerful movie like this and be one of the hated characters. Grace gets the role of real life Klan leader David Duke. He doesn’t shy away from it and delivers the goods. But surely you have to go home at the end of the shoot exhausted and repulsed by the days events.  More so because you aren’t breathing life into a fictional character but one who walks among us even today.

When I said the relevance to today’s headlines was uncanny I was not exaggerating. There is no doubt that this film is pointing fingers at the current political administration. The movie doesn’t even try to pretend or dance around the issue. A clear picture is presented and then the viewer is challenged to try and defy it. Is it racially charged? Like an atom bomb. It’s Spike Lee. Don’t act surprised. But to brush it away as sensationalism or hate mongering would be to deny the unraveling of our society and to take a large 60 year step backwards.

BlacKkKlansman is rated R for language, violence, and thematic elements. Though many times a hard film to watch it is still one to see for sure. There were times I wanted to stand up in the theater and yell for them to be quiet. There is a limit to how much ignorance and hatred a person can stand. But it knows just when to pull back. The movie takes you to dark places in order to get you to wake up to some very important issues. That is hard for many movie goers who just want 120 minutes of escape from reality. But these films are important too. I give it 4 out of 5 bellbottom pants. Oh, and did I mention the soundtrack? It is out of sight, baby! Another strong element in a well designed and thought out presentation.