Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’ is not to be missed Epic and essential


‘BlacKkKlansman’

Grade: 3 and a half stars (out of 4)

Rating: R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references

Running time: 2:15

By LINDSEY BAHR

AP Film Writer

In 1979, a man named Ron Stallworth who was the first African-American police officer and detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department also became a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan and the leader of the local chapter. He would send a white co-worker to play him for in-person meetings as part of the wild undercover operation, but Stallworth was the one on the phone, insisting his hatred for nonwhite races with everyone from the local chapter members to the KKK’s “grand wizard” David Duke himself.

It’s Stallworth’s story that provides the framework for Spike Lee’s blistering new film, “BlacKkKlansman,” but hardly the full picture. Deceptively epic in scope, in “BlacKkKlansman” Lee has made an immensely entertaining film about everything – love, friendship, ambition, civil rights, the power of words and images to uplift and destroy and the various shades and ideologies of racism and revolution that will leave you craving another viewing.

John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son) plays Ron Stallworth, a composed and deliberate man who isn’t afraid to ask for what he wants, whether it’s a job or a quick promotion out of the dreaded records room and into undercover work.

But Ron has a plan to infiltrate The Organization, and a few around him like the police chief (Robert John Burke), and two detectives, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) and Jimmy Creek (Michael Buscemi) are at least willing to go along with it for a while. Flip draws the card to be in-person Ron, which turns out to be a headache of its own when one of The Organization’s members, Felix (Jasper Paakkonen), starts to suspect that he might actually be Jewish.

These scenes are riveting to watch, infused with a perfectly executed tension as Flip carefully navigates his way through meetings and interactions with the group, including the docile chapter leader Walter (Ryan Eggold), the maniacally sinister Felix and the perpetually drunk and dumb Ivanhoe (Paul Walter Hauser).

The acting is expert throughout with standout performances by Washington and Driver, especially, who gets a powerful arc. The supporting cast is also notably strong, including Harrier and Topher Grace as David Duke.

Every frame is packed with meaning and metaphor from the opening, the famous crane shot from Victor Fleming’s “Gone With the Wind,” onward to the sins of the present day. It’s a Spike Lee joint that is not to be missed.

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