Movie Review – BlacKkKlansman

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Director Spike Lee is very much in vogue this year with a successful Netflix series (She’s Gotta Have it – based on his first feature film), several advertising and video game projects, and now, perhaps, one of the very best films of his up and down career. Lee has become very reminiscent of another famous New York film director – Woody Allen – who also plays his productions by his own tune. Like Allen, Spike Lee will throw out three or four personal projects which fail to connect with audiences and then suddenly bam! Major hit. In Woody Allen’s case, it was a string of classic early hits (Sleeper, Annie Hall, Manhattan, etc.) followed by a turn into serious, personal works (Interiors, Radio Days, etc.), a mid-career resurgence (Hannah And Her Sisters, Bullets Over Broadway), some more smaller scale works (Celebrity, Deconstructing Harry) and then hitsville again (Match Point, Midnight In Paris). Spike Lee has had a very similar trajectory. Major works at the start of his career like Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X, followed by smaller scale works such as Jungle Fever and Crooklyn. Then he would follow up with some quality studio work like 25th Hour with Edward Norton and Inside Man with Denzel Washington. Back to the smaller scale with stuff like Miracle At St. Anna and Chi-raq…and now BOOM! BlacKkKlansman hits the spot as an intense, electrically charged, divisive yet compassionate treatise on race in this country. It is done with style and smarts with an engaging, based on true life story and an infusion of light humor and fun amidst the proceedings. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first black cop hired by the Colorado Springs police force in the early 1970s. He is initially forced to work as a menial desk clerk but he soon climbs the ladder to detective. Stallworth is placed undercover to spy on black rights activist Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael) where he instead takes pride in his race and falls for a local college girl who serves as a community activist. Inspired by the event, Stallworth takes it upon himself to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. He speaks to the KKK leaders via phone and he gets his colleague Flip (Adam Driver) to serve as the white version of himself for in person meets. Soon, the team is in contact with Grand Dragon David Duke (Topher Grace) himself and they find themselves in a variety of sticky situations as they get deeper and deeper into the hate group. While entertaining, BlacKkKlansman seethes with anger, putting a microscope to modern America and showing us that we really haven’t come all that far from the racist mindset of the 50s and 60s. This is a startling, eye opening movie and one of the better features of the year to date.

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