If your favorite Spike Lee films are “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X” and “School Daze,” you are in for a cinematic treat with “BlacKkKlansman.” While the filmmaker has never forgotten his political roots, his latest project has a taste of classic Spike that we haven’t seen in years: unapologetic and witty, but still accessible and relatable. “BlacKkKlansman” is definitely a Spike Lee instant classic.
Based on the autobiographical book “Black Klansman” by Ron Stallworth, the film stars John David Washington, Denzel Washington‘s son, as Stallworth, the first Black cop on the police force in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Set in the 1970s, Ron infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan using code-switching skills by tricking Klan members, including David Duke, into believing that he is a white man who wants to join the “organization.”
Armed with a strong script that was written by Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott, the film (produced by Jordan Peele of “Get Out” fame) brilliantly connects the 1970s with today’s politics. There are references to Make America Great Again, police brutality and the Nixon government, which can easily be compared to Trump’s (although it can be convincingly argued that Trump has been much worse than the 37th president ever was). The message is clear in “BlacKkKlansman”: Look how far we haven’t come and the amount of work we need to do.
“BlacKkKlansman” wouldn’t be a Spike Lee film without those wonky moments that sometimes resemble a Blaxploitation cartoon rather than a thought-provoking dramedy about culture. However, like any of his movies, it’s hard to tell if the flubs are intentional. Thankfully, the stellar cast carry any potentially eye-rolling moments.
Although John David Washington made it on Hollywood’s radar with HBO’s “Ballers,” he has solidified himself as a star in “BlacKkKlansman.” With a rough and stuff ‘fro, an unrecognizable speaking voice and the acting death stare that he inherited from his daddy, Washington has all the tools to be an Oscar winner in a few more years.
Lee is also famous for introducing us to unknown actors, and Laura Harrier as Ron Stallworth’s girlfriend Patrice Dumas is definitely another star on the rise. The cast also includes Adam Driver, best known as his role in “Girls,” Stallworth’s partner who hides being Jewish to help infiltrate the Klan.
In one powerful scene, Stallworth tries to convince Driver’s character, Flip Zimmerman, of the connections in their experiences as being Jewish and Black. Zimmerman in turn is clueless, which is an important example of how many of us only have empathy if we are directly affected by oppression. Topher Grace also gives a hilarious yet creepy performance as the grand wizard of Klu Klux Klan David Duke.
The film’s ending hammers home its message of urgency. By highlighting the horrors of the white supremacist rally last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, we see our country’s desperate state. Which side will you be on: hate, love, or indifference? In these disturbing times and with a crucial midterm election in November, time is up. Fundamental rights are being chipped away and yours might be next.
“BlacKkKlansman” is in theaters Friday. Watch the trailer below: