BlacKkKlansman (2018)

blackkklansman poster 2018 movie john david washington
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Interesting story and good cast

Plays with the real story to make it a drama

Movie Info

Movie Name:  BlacKkKlansman

Studio:  40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s): Movie Release Date

MPAA Rating:  R

blackkklansman john david washington adam driver

So…I got an idea

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) always wanted to make a difference.  When he becomes the first African-American member of the Colorado Springs PD in the 1970s, he finds he still is sidelined due to his race and rookie status.  Assigned to cover a talk by Kwame Ture undercover, Ron finds his in and catches the eye of an activist named Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier).  Ron responds to an ad in a local paper advertising membership in the Ku Klux Klan, and posing as a white man, Ron finds the Klan is planning things for Colorado Springs.  With Jewish officer Detective Philip “Flip” Zimmerman (Adam Driver) posing as his white counterpart, Ron must keep ahead of the Klan and decide how he will help Patrice when she becomes a target.

blackkklansman adam driver john david washington

Let’s get to work!

Directed by Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman is biopic drama.  The basic framework is based upon the work of Ron Stallworth who infiltrated the Klan in an undercover operation in the 1970s and in 2014 published a book about the assignment.  The movie won the Grand Prix at Cannes and received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Driver), Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing.

A biopic picture is hard in that you often want to boost the drama.  Often this comes off as grandstanding or efforts to manipulate the audience.  While in something like Bohemian Rhapsody I find it rather distracting, BlacKkKlansman always feels like more of a drama with a hint of reality.

blackkklansman david dukes topher grace john david washington

Yeah, Mr. Dukes…I’m white.

Stallworth did infiltrate the Klan as shown in the movie and he did eventually speak to David Duke (played by Topher Grace in the film) about his membership, but the bomb plot and much of the drama surrounding the end of the movie was fictionalized.  The identity of the undercover officer (or officers) were never identified so the Jewish storyline surrounding Driver’s character is also fictionalized…but it works.  It becomes a morality play about how things were different…or how history is repeating itself.  If the Klansmen had simply been arrested, it wouldn’t have felt very satisfying.

This is the type of movie that is tough for actors.  In such a charged environment where even uttering some of the words used in the film get you accused of racism in any context, it has to be hard for actors to commit to their roles.  The flip-side of it is for Washington who has to hear all the hate coming from costars and remember that it is acting (while still reacting like it isn’t).  It is a tricky mix that makes the challenge of the film even harder for actors and they all do a great job here.

blackkklansman patrice ron john david washington laura harrier

We dole out justice…our style!

The movie is visually compelling.  Spike Lee has always been a visionary and you can see things Tarantino originally borrowed from Lee in some of his early films, but now you can see Lee seeming to absorb some of Tarantino’s trademarks.  The result is slick, but it doesn’t feel quite as original as it would have twenty years ago.

BlacKkKlansman takes liberties with an interesting true story and in doing that turns it into a solid drama.  It would have been hard to be compelling as a typical police procedural with the charged subject, and I don’t think it necessarily would have worked as a film (perhaps a TV series).  The end of the film returns BlacKkKlansman to a look at modern day politics and civil rights…something that appears to be sliding, and it is a sobering reminder of no matter how far we go, people have to keep fighting to ensure rights are protected.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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