Co-written by Lee (along with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott), BlackkKlansman is sublimely written and has the ability to spark much lively discussion (among enlightened adults who still remember how to have a meaningful discussion without it all descending into childish name calling, deflection and finger pointing). It takes a look at racism throughout American history in a way I’ve never seen done before, to my recollection – demonstrating how racism has evolved and persisted from the time before the slaves were first “freed”/the Civil War/Antebellum South, through Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and beyond; how we haven’t really learned a damn thing in all those years; and how even with all the advances we think we’ve made, we remain stuck on stupid, today. But, this is what makes this film masterful. The boldness and creativity in this writing earns 10 bloops on its own. I enjoyed each story line equally, which is odd because ordinarily I would say this movie tries to be too many things. Not this time. This is how to balance out a story and not have it become a mess.
BlackkKlansman is billed as biography/comedy/crime story, but also contains romance, at least a couple of history lessons, and enough suspense to qualify it as a thriller – things become terrifying as you imagine the many, many ways this entire operation could go wrong. And since it is based on a true story I had never heard about I had no idea where this story would go, which only served to heightening the suspense further.
John David looks more like his mom, but if you close your eyes and listen to him speak, at times you would swear Denzel Washington was in the room. He talks like him, laughs like him somewhat, at times, and has some “Denzel-esque” mannerisms that endeared him to me. There is some superb acting here. Cory Hawkins as Kwame Ture a/k/a Stokely Carmichael is amazing. His performance is powerful, moving, memorable and worthy of note. Ashlie Atkinson is the breakout star here. She will make you laugh out loud, shake your head, want to cry, and want to kick her square in the ass several times, for a number of reasons – sometimes all at the same time. There are many other notable performances. Go see it and find out for yourself.
While BlackkKlansman is superbly written and well acted, it isn’t without fault. As happy as I am to see Lee in all his directorial glory, and it is his movie to direct as he pleases, I could have done without him putting his personal “Spike Lee stank” on this particular film. I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say, the club scene got kind of corny and out of step with the rest of the film, as was his signature “Dolly Shot”. (I didn’t care for the dolly shot the first time I saw it, so every one that I have witnessed thereafter has induced and always will induce immediate and severe eye-rolling.) Both scenes took me out of the movie and put me square back into the theater… not in a terrible way; but if neither of those scenes would have happened I wouldn’t have missed them; or had they been directed or written differently – say without the choreographed dance or without that damn dolly shot – I think it would have made for a stronger film. It’s a Spike Lee Joint. We get it.
Also, BlackkKlansman could have been even stronger had it not shown the face of a certain, shall we say, controversial dude who’s in charge of the country right now… I dislike an “obvious” film and understand why he is in the film, but trust me, he isn’t necessary. The audience understood exactly where and to whom things were leading. The audience is provided with all this thought provoking entertainment for two hours and ten minutes only to be fed the conclusion like silly children. In this way, I thought that piece of footage weakened the film.
Also, what would have been perfect is if there was a picture of Ron and his partner and his love interest at the end. Are they still alive? (I didn’t know when I watched the movie, but I do know at least Ron is alive and well) How much jail time was given? (Was that part of the story even true?) Whatever happened to Ron and his love interest – did they stay together, did they marry, have grandchildren, split up? I personally clapped when I believed the movie was over and no one else did (well, my sister clapped with me, of course). But as I made my way down the stairs to leave the theater everyone else remained seated. I think that closure is what they were waiting for. It’s pretty standard in biographical movies (Queen of Katwe, Deepwater Horizon, Hidden Figures, Lion, Loving, Marshall) (my reviews are in the links if you’d care to read them), and it should have been done here; particularly since so few people have heard this story or ever laid eyes on Ron Stallworth. (*I now understand why this was not done. I leave the paragraph in because featuring Ron with some follow up text would have been sufficient.)
It was my pleasure to see Spike all these years after kicking in the Hollywood door and creating a space for himself still working to shock, provoke, disturb, awaken and educate. Pops, I mean, Spike, has still got it! With BlackkKlansman Spike proves he is still relevant in his “old age”, and still has something important to say.
BlackkKlansman earned 8.5 out of 10 bloops. I wanted to watch it again as soon as the screen darkened and I will probably see it again before it leaves theaters, which almost never happens. The well written, original story, top notch writing, acting, directing, makeup, hair, wardrobe, cinematography, all combined to create something quite special.
***After you see it, NOT BEFORE (I know you will do what you want), read this to find out which parts of and characters in the movie were real/fictional and to explain the * above).
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
What I’m seeing/reviewing next…
I’m kind of out of pace right now. Catching up. Excuse me. I cannot say.
Support the Girls
Crazy Rich Asians
The Happytime Murders
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Sorry to Bother You
Avengers: Infinity War
You Were Never Really Here
A Quiet Place
Ready Player One
A Wrinkle in Time
The Florida Project
Den of Thieves
All the Money in the World
The Greatest Showman
The Disaster Artist
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Victoria and Abdul
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Big Sick
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I Am Not Your Negro