Can you dig it? Cause you’re gonna dig it as Hollywood visionary Spike Lee is returning to the big screen with a film of pure soul brother power in BlacKkKlansman that is one wild ride….and more than that it’s totally, totally true.
Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a rookie African American detective in Colorado Springs, Colorado, infiltrates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and eventually becomes the head of the chapter in a story that shocked the nation and the world!
Spike Lee. The man is a legend, and after a long absence from the silver screen the noted director is now returning to it with all kinds of bravado with this true tale that doesn’t get any crazier or any realer in BlackKkKlansman. Get ready for one hell of a time warp as Lee takes you back to 1972. We’re talking about the time of superfly cool, hi-fi records on repeat and plenty of freaky soul power. And into it walks determined and ambitious young police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), who is ready to uphold the law and finds himself on the case of a lifetime when he becomes embroiled with the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan….and then decides to take them for a ride. From there things only get crazier, and all of it actually happened!
BlacKkKlansman is so compelling because it really actually happened, and Lee wastes no time in showing how it all unfolded. While the film is essentially a detective story with a good helping of comedy, its true crime setting really adds to the experience and this of course happens as you watch Stallworth systematically lampoon David Duke, the self-styled Grand Wizard of the KKK and who views himself as a legitimate businessman with wild dreams of public office and their interactions are hysterical.
Major applause has to be given to bold new talent John David Washington who takes on the role of Stallworth and absolutely delivers. Washington’s performance is an interesting one and he works really hard to display the conflict that rest at the core of who Stallworth is. While he wants to serve and protect above all else he continually runs into a tonne of racial bigotry within his own police force and while addressing it, he is never forceful about it. Instead his way of fighting it is to simply put in the work and win from the inside. Washington also revels in the film’s comedy and his interactions with Topher Grace as Duke are particularly funny. He also shares great chemistry with his partner Philip ‘Flip’ Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who is less than enthused with Stallworth’s plan, but who eventually buys into it as his partner and goes undercover as the other ‘Ron Stallworth’ to set up the local KKK members in a sting operation.
But if this film has a scene stealer then it’s most definitely Topher Grace as David Duke, yes that David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK who had ambitions of changing the racist organization into a more legitimate political group, but who fails miserably in the process and who is really taken for a ride by Stallworth. Grace really commits with his performance and goes to a pretty loony place as Duke. One thing that I liked about his performance was that his racism didn’t really have a filter, like while he was an out and out racist, he was also incredibly racist to his own KKK members, not wanting to associate with the lower level dregs who could possibly ruin his chances of legitimate office. It’ a great return to form for Grace and he does a terrific job as this crazy character and I’m excited to see what he does next.
While he does offer up a very entertaining and comical film there are some serious issues at the heart of BlaKkKlansman and Spike Lee definitely drives home the serious issues that lie at the heart of the film. Not to get into spoiler territory, but Lee definitely makes a bold statement with this film and examines the events of our recent past, including the shocking violence and divide that erupted in Charlottesville in 2017. These statements are pretty intense to behold, but it’s important that artists and directors like Lee use the medium of film to actually express an opinion and he does that right here.
BlaKkKlansman is a thoroughly entertaining watch and it carries a serious message with it as well. It’ll definitely make you want to fight the power with plenty of soul energy and is one of this year’s most important releases…and it’s also a solid slam dunk for Lee proving that he’s one director you have to listen to.
Image: Universal Pictures