In the old days, before Spike Lee was a legend—when he first stepped out with “She’s Gotta Have It,” in 1986, the Hollywood system didn’t think very much of Mr. Lee or anyone who looked like him.
In the old days, “we,” the folks of color, made it our business to support him by purchasing his merchandise (he has a savvy marketing brain) and spending our dollars on his films on opening weekend.
We understood then without even understanding the complexities of the Hollywood system or the reversal of advances, hard earned in the United States, that we are losing now because of a broken system—we knew then that Lee would tell the truth.
There is no justice in the United States of America for the innocent. The United States is a stolen land “won” by committing genocide after genocide and lying all the time. Those are the facts, and the leaders are filled with apathy that is almost as stinging as old-fashioned hate.
And here comes storyteller and legend Spike Lee with his searing new film “BlacKkKlansman,” based on real-life events that are almost too unbelievable.
An African-American cop with the Colorado Springs Police Department in the 1970s infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan by posing as a rabid racist and anti-Semite. Truth is stranger than fiction.
The man is Ron Stallworth, the first Black detective for the Colorado Springs Department. He saw a recruitment ad for the KKK in the local newspaper, picked up the phone and, using his real name, posed as a hate-spewing racist who loathed everyone who wasn’t from “pure white Aryan blood.” Sounds like 2018, doesn’t it?
In the lead is actor John David Washington, who gives the risk-taking Ron Stallworth an edge, delivering an entertaining and powerful performance. Adam Driver plays Stallworth’s new partner, Flip Zimmerman, a Jewish cop who “stands in” as the racist version of Ron, for in-person meetings with the local Klan’s low-vibrating idiots, one of whom actually tries to strap him to a “Jew detector” polygraph to find out if he is telling the truth.
Remember, please, this film is based on a true story, so keep up. The white cop impersonating an African-American cop impersonating a white supremacist—it’s a miracle they survived.
“BlacKkKlansman” kicks off with Ron joining the department and assigned to desk duty.
He’s only allowed to get into the field when he’s told to go undercover at a student rally featuring the former Black Panther Stokely Carmichael, who has changed his name to Kwame Ture. Essentially, they want him to spy on Carmichael and report back.
Before Ron even enters the rally, he meets and almost instantly falls for Patrice (Laura Harrier), who just happens to be a deeply committed activist and the leader of the Colorado College Black Union. She doesn’t know he’s a cop.
Later, Ron calls the local KKK and befriends the chapter leader. They become telephone pals with the Klan’s national leader, the utterly evil and twisted David Duke (Topher Grace.)
Here is where Ron’s life gets complicated. He’s lying to the KKK. He’s lying to Patrice. He’s risking his life and his romantic future.
Hate isn’t logical and it’s absolutely cruel. These low-vibrating idiots are dangerous, and their plans to commit a terrorist act against innocent civilians, deadly. There are many gut-churning moments and again, this film is based on a true story, so the sinking feeling of doom comes from an authentic place. It’s not gone, this hate, it’s here and being supported by leaders in power. Hate and ignorance create monstrous acts.
Lee is smart and he wisely weaves in scenes of great camaraderie (blue brotherhood) in the police station, bringing additional, needed levity so often provided by the behavior of the clueless Klan supporters—idiots all.
Washington and Driver have excellent chemistry. Lee’s direction is smooth, and the soundtrack delivers with great period-piece tunes by the Temptations and Sister Rose.
“BlacKkKlansman” is one of Spike Lee’s most accomplished films, one of the best films of 2018 and should make a big splash during the coming award season.