City Press review: BlacKkKlansman
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver
Our film plays out in the early 70s and sees Ron Stalworth (John David Washington) as a fly brother with a healthy concern for the world around him. He becomes a cop – the first black cop to serve in the Colorado Springs district in the US. This, of course, sees him endure much racial abuse. Stalworth is assigned to a boring beat in the evidence room, but eventually progresses to an undercover role and decides to make the most of this opportunity.
However, Stalworth has to keep his police life a secret from Patrice (Laura Harrier), who he develops feelings for. She is a radical leader of a student black power organisation and she can’t stand the police.
Even though he’s a cop, Stalworth proves just how down he is for the advancement of black people. He sees an advert for to join the Ku Klux Klan and he calls the number on it. He puts on a “white voice” – making himself sound like a typical white American – and after a few telephonic interactions, the Klan agrees to give him a membership. These conversations progress to the point where Stalworth gains access to the local Klan’s “grand wizard” or dragon – that’s what these idiots in the sheets call each other.
Dragon David Duke is fooled for months by Stalworth and his police unit. Duke claims to always be able to tell when he’s speaking with a black person because of the way we say the word ‘are’. His black radar fails him terribly, but makes for a great laugh when Stalworth eventually tells him the truth.
The Klan members provide the best laughs in this film – from their botched attack on Patrice to their explanation of why white people are superior. It’s hilarious and, to quote another white supremacist, “you just can’t beat that”.
Spike Lee always manages to inject political commentary into very clever moments. This film is shot in a slightly more polished style to what we’ve seen Lee do before in such films as Do the Right Thing or Get on the Bus, but it still has his unmistakable signature. Simple and stylish, perhaps his budget was a little bigger for this one.
The issue of Donald Trump and the current situation in the US is highlighted, with one character describing his traits and then stating that the US would never elect someone that vile to the post of president.
The end of the film is jarring as images from last year’s alt-right protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, flash on the screen, including when a self-avowed Nazi sympathiser drove a car into a crowd and killed a woman who was part of a counterprotest.
This highlights the fact that not much has changed between black and white people over the past few decades.