Review: BlacKkKlansman

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PLOT: This is the story of Ron Stallworth - the First African-American Detective to serve on The Colorado Springs Police Department - and his investigation into the Ku Klux Klan during the mid-1970’s.

REVIEW: The first images of the latest Spike Lee Joint features Alec Baldwin as Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard, a white supremacist filming an interview of sorts where he talks about his disgust at the idea of ending segregation in schools. It’s an intriguing beginning to BLACKkKLANSMAN - as the press notes call it - a “Fo’ Real Fo’ Real Shit” story that took place in the mid-1970s. The new film is a powerful one, one that is a reminder of Lee’s earlier work including DO THE RIGHT THING and MALCOLM X. Certainly a political statement, but it also happens to be beautifully directed, well written and a fascinating examination of the First African-American Detective to serve on The Colorado Springs Police Department.

When Colorado Springs opened it’s doors for minorities to apply for a job within their police department, Ron Stallworth (Ballers’ John David Washington) is prepared to join. The driven recruit is soon promoted to investigative work, where he discovers a newspaper ad calling for new members for the Ku Klux Klan. Stallworth contacts the organization by phone, while his fellow officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) makes face-to-fact contact so the officers can infiltrate the Klan. Things get all the more serious when Stallworth makes phone contact with the Klan’s Grand Wizard, David Duke (Topher Grace) who embraces Ron as a soldier for his cause - clearly he has no idea who Stallworth really is, only that he "sounds white." The closer they get inside, they find that they must stop the organization before a deadly attack on a group of student activists, including Stallworth's current romantic partner, Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier).

One of the most interesting aspects of the latest from Spike Lee is that the role of Ron Stallworth is played by Denzel Washington’s son. Of course, Washington himself played MALCOLM X in Lee’s terrific film biography of the civil rights leader, among other projecst. With BLACKkKLANSMAN, John David Washington is absolutely perfect as a man with the fierce determination to go after the KKK. The actor gives Stallworth an appropriate sense of charm, tenacity and even arrogance. If this is any indication, Spike Lee may have a new leading man to continue what could very well be as solid a partnership as he has with John David’s father.

As far as his big screen endeavors, this is the best we’ve seen from Spike Lee in quite awhile. This true life tale brings back a little of his earlier filmmaking style, especially in one scene featuring the legendary Harry Belafonte as Jerome Turner. It's an elegant and profound moment where Turner tells a heartbreaking story to a group of activists, including Stallworth’s complicated romantic interest Patrice. As Belafonte speaks, we see those in the room with only their faces and expressions lit up, the focus on their emotional reactions as they listen to Jerome’s words help the viewer to connect. Lee - along with cinematographer Chayse Irvin - bring us an impressively shot cinematic biography. Perhaps not as bold as MALCOLM X, but pretty damn near close.

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The cast is uniformly great. Topher Grace gives a spot on take as a young and powerful David Duke. The actor looks and sounds very much like the controversial public figure. Both Brian Tarantina and Adam Driver are terrific as the officers working with Stallworth; especially Driver who plays a man who goes face to face with the KKK members. His involvement is especially troubling when one of the members, Felix Fendrickson (Vikings’ star Jasper Pääkkönen) suspects that the new member is Jewish. Felix is also quite impressive, as we see his seething hatred and his need to lash out, but we also see a few surprisingly sweet moments with his on-screen wife Connie (Ashlie Atkinson).

When it comes to the romantic interest Patrice, Laura Harrier is excellent. The actress plays the young activist with a ferocious strength that can be equally playful and engaging. Occasionally when you have the side romance in a film, it either drags the story down or doesn’t feel like it really belongs. However, the relationship between her and Ron is always pertinent to the story and never forced. The two actors share a natural chemistry, and yet the script never cheapens Patrice by making her simply that, a “romantic interest.” This is a lovely performance in a role that is, dare I say, almost as relevant to this story as Washington’s Stallworth himself.

BLACKkKLANSMAN is a compelling drama that is humorous, intense and fascinating. While it is certainly unsettling - especially the last five minutes or so when we see images from recent events - it is perhaps one of Spike Lee’s best. Thankfully, he is able to create a profound true life tale about an unbelievable moment in history. Add to that a terrific cast led by John David Washington, and you have a politically charged film that is certainly going to have strong reactions across the board. However, it is also a very human story that manages to be funny, thoughtful and engaging. The score and soundtrack, the costumes and the look of the film also help capture the 1970’s perfectly. This feels very much like the “Spike Lee Joints” that made him the acclaimed filmmaker he is today.

Source: JoBlo.com



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