Biography BlacKkKlansman

Review: Spike Lee Brings His Usual Authenticity and Flair to the Powerful ‘BlacKkKlansman’

August 10, 2018Britany Murphy

Most people would like to remain as far away from the Ku Klux Klan as possible, but when African-American detective Ron Stallworth finds he can infiltrate the hate group over the telephone — speaking directly to grand wizard, David Duke, himself — he puts himself at risk in an attempt to bring the white supremacist group down.

Based on a true story, the film follows Stallworth (John David Washington), who becomes the first African-American police officer in the entire Colorado Springs Police Department, after the organization looks to add diversity to its ranks for the first time. Starting out as a cadet, Stallworth has to deal with racism within his workplace, and it ultimately makes it harder for him to move his career further and become a detective. Yet, he always wanted to work undercover, so when an opportunity arises to attend a speech by Kwame Ture a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins) at a nearby nightclub, Stallworth agrees to take on his first assignment, meeting Black Student Union President Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), who is in charge of setting up Ture's talk.

With his first undercover assignment under his belt, Stallworth begins looking for his next big job, and while flipping through a newspaper one day, he sees an advertisement looking to recruit people for a new KKK chapter in town. Picking up his office phone and dialing the number in the ad, Stallworth leaves a message, and when he gets a call back from a man asking why he's interested, Stallworth showcases his acting chops by putting on his "white voice," telling the man on the other end just want he wants to hear — that he hates minorities, especially the Blacks and the Jews.

Knowing that Stallworth cannot ever meet the members of the new KKK chapter face-to-face, another undercover detective, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), goes in his stead and tries to gain the trust of the group — who are completely unaware that they’ve been speaking to Stallworth the entire time. The irony that these two detectives infiltrating the KKK are from two of the ethnic groups that the organization hates the most is not lost — upstanding citizens: 1, asinine racists: 0! — however, this is just the beginning in an undercover mission that will delve deep into the hatred and dangerous nature of the Klan, with Stallworth even making his way to the leader of the KKK himself, David Duke (Topher Grace).

As always, Spike Lee gets the most out of his incredible cast, and BlacKkKlansman is most definitely a star vehicle for Washington, who exudes confidence and charisma as Stallworth, the detective who loves his people, loves his job and will stop at nothing to take down his city's chapter of the KKK. Washington is great alongside Driver, and the duo's ability to easily play off one another's performances adds another layer of enjoyment to a movie already filled with impactful performances from every single actor in the cast, regardless of how big or small their roles are.

That said, BlacKkKlansman's defining attribute is that it is undeniably and unapologetically a Spike Lee Joint. From the shots, to the music and dialogue, this is everything one hopes a Spike Lee film will be. It does not shy away from difficult subject matter with the use of subtlety. Rather, it is in your face, which not only benefits the movie, but will definitely benefit the audience as a whole. Despite being set in the 1970s, BlacKkKlansman transcends the decade in which it is set, making this a powerful, poignant and timely piece of filmmaking that makes an undeniable statement.

BlacKkKlansman releases August 10th, 2018 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 15 min.

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