Well, I certainly have been curious about this one. A black… Ku Klux Klansman. What a concept. Of course, Spike Lee would be directing a movie like this, and of course, Jordan Peele would be producing. Hey, never said it was a bad thing. Just, of course this would be happening.
The story looks like it’s about a black police detective who poses as a Klansman and enlists the help of a white colleague in order infiltrate and expose the local chapter.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have John David Washington (MALCOLM X , and the upcoming THE OLD MAN & THE GUN ), Adam Driver (STAR WARS: LAST JEDI , MIDNIGHT SPECIAL , STAR WARS: FORCE AWAKENS , and upcoming films STAR WARS EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER  and THE TORTURE REPORT ), Alec Baldwin (M:I – FALLOUT , THE BOSS BABY , M:I – ROGUE NATION , and upcoming films ARCTIC JUSTICE  and DRUNK PARENTS ), Topher Grace (AMERICAN ULTRA , PREDATORS , and upcoming films UNDER THE SILVER LAKE  and BREAKTHROUGH ), and Corey Hawkins (KONG: SKULL ISLAND , STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON , and upcoming films GEORGETOWN  and 6 UNDERGROUND ).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Spike Lee, known for INSIDE MAN (2006). Co-writing with Lee, making for a red-flag total of four writers, we have duo Charlie Wachtel and David Robinowitz (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of), and Kevin Willmott (CHI-RAQ ). Composing the score is Terence Blanchard, known for THE COMEDIAN (2017). The cinematographer is Chayse Irvin, known for stuff I’ve never seen or heard of. Finally, the editor is Barry Alexander Brown, known for QUEEN OF KATWE (2016).
Overall, this looks like it could be pretty funny and interesting. Considering that this has four writers though, I’m going to go in with some caution. Four writers is rarely a good sign. I admit to not being fully aware of Spike Lee’s past, having only seen INSIDE MAN, which I barely remember, and no, I’ve not seen MALCOLM X. That said, I do enjoy some of the cast, like Driver and Baldwin. My guess, it’ll be alright.
This is my honest opinion of: BLACKKKLANSMAN
Set in Colorado Springs, Colorado, circa 1979. Rookie officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) manages to get out of the records room and is granted his first assignment. He’s tasked with infiltrating a gathering of black liberators, and eventually segues into his own assignment of infiltrating the local Ku Klux Klan chapter with the help of his partner, Phillip “Flip” Zimmerman (Adam Driver), posing as a wannabe Klansman.
Mph… sorry guys, I can’t say that I liked this movie all that much. But don’t start burning me at the stake quite yet, I’m not about to call this movie bad.
Let’s start with what I believe this movie did great. I understand a part of what this movie is trying to do is show the parallels between the racial tensions of the late 70’s and the current rise of racial problems today, likely thanks in large part to Trump being the President. Ron has a line that goes something like, “Come on, America would never elect a man like David Duke as President,” who is a leader of the KKK, and a known racist. Funny, because now we have Trump. When those comparisons are made, the movie is at its best, especially when the final modern footage is playing before the credits roll. It really opens your mind to the realities that not all of us are privy to and this movie gives you a front row seat to that bullshit.
Other aspects are pretty great too. The movie opens on a rather impressive scene during the civil war with a shit-load of extras laying down playing wounded people, which really got me hopeful. Then right after is a KKK propaganda piece with Alec Baldwin as Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard, which was absolutely racist, but in a fail kind of way. Repeating and forgetting his lines, overacting, it’s entertainingly uncomfortable in just how intentionally stupid it was.
I think my absolute favorite actor in this movie is Driver. Holy shit, he stole the show for me in nearly every scene he was in, probably given the best material. Pretending to talk down on blacks, Jews, homosexuals, the whole lot of them and just how convincing he is. And it’s not that bullshit pretending you see in movies where the actors don’t change the sound of their voices and they’re clearly acting. No, Flip says some pretty fucked up shit to really sell himself to the KKK members. That the Holocaust was beautiful? Shit, dude. That sent a chill down my spine, especially since Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen) was denying that it ever existed.
So with all my praise, where does the movie go wrong? Well, I can certainly tell you what I didn’t completely agree with.
For one thing, I thought certain scenes were unnecessary. For me, the plot of the movie doesn’t really start until Ron sees that ad in the newspaper about joining the KKK. But that takes quite a bit of time. Ron’s introduction is him getting the job in Colorado Springs, then is briefly assigned to the records room, and then gets his first assignment to infiltrate a black liberation gathering for Kwame Ture, then sparking a romance between Ron and Patrice (Laura Harrier). I have no idea how any of that really served the narrative. Okay, I can kind of understand how. The records room scenes are supposed to set up that Ron won’t find respect among his peers, setting up tone and what have you. But… I don’t know, didn’t that Baldwin propaganda thing do that already? This movie is toted as a comedy, which it can be, and it’s trying to make you uncomfortable, which it does. Why did that need to be dragged out for so long? The black liberation gathering was certainly a riveting scene with great acting from Corey Hawkins, but exactly why was this scene necessary? That blacks were still fighting for their rights to be treated as equals? I’m pretty sure the general populace knew that. The relationship between Ron and Patrice didn’t add much either.
A part of me thought that this movie was trying to showcase the flipside to the racist coin. Yes, the KKK are racist white-supremacist pricks, but maybe the movie was also trying to show that even the black community was racist. I mean, their focus is more on equality, of course, but Patrice does constantly refer to cops as “pigs,” essentially a derogatory term for police officers, whom she believes are inherently racist. Not that the events of the movie don’t back that claim up, but Flip isn’t racist, Jimmy’s not racist. So already it’s not all of them. She believes that the system can’t be changed from the inside out, which is exactly what Ron is trying to do. Even when she finds out, she can’t bring herself to be romantically involved, even though he saves her life and constantly does right by her. I don’t know, I feel like this was touched upon, but I also feel like that’s a target that the movie unintentionally wanted me think. So ultimately, I think I’m just more confused about what role Patrice serves in the story. As a result of all of this, I found myself getting bored sometimes.
Overall, I can’t say that I dislike this film in any way. It’s relevant, almost satirical in how it compares its events to the events of today, has some great acting, and the climax’s conclusion is both hilarious and satisfying on more than a few levels. However, I felt like more than a few scenes were unnecessary and dragged the movie to a runtime much longer than it needed to be, some of them even repetitive, rendering stretches of this film pretty slow. As a recommendation, though, I will say it’s worth checking out. Maybe I didn’t get as much out of the movie as the majority seem to, but I encourage anyone to give this a shot and see where you fall under. This “fo’ real, fo’ real shit” may not be great, but it’s worth checking out.
My honest rating for BLACKKKLANSMAN: a strong 3/5
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