In an accolade to last year’s Charlottesville riots, “BlacKkKlansman,” based on a true story, opens up the door for a much needed dialogue about the way President Donald Trump reacted to the tragedies at the Unite the Right rally.
The riots were a completely different tone from the film, and, as a result, create a different conversation separate from the movie. It needs to be had, however, because it is the driving force behind the entire movie.
When the film ended and the credits rolled, everyone in the filled theater sat in silence, not waiting for an after-credit scene like a Marvel movie, but just trying to process what they just saw. It’s difficult to watch, but also incredibly effective in that it opens up discussion about racial climate, a topic many Americans have yet to navigate. The whole segment and movie has one goal: attacking Trump.
It’s impossible to keep up and remember everything that Trump has said and tweeted since being in office, so director Spike Lee made the president’s reaction and comments about the riots impossible to forget.
BlacKkKlansman is one of a few, much-needed movies from people of color in 2018. It joins “The Hate U Give” and “Blindspotting” as movies that seem to be made in response to the many police shootings over the last couple years. BlacKkKlansman is different, however, because it strictly attacks Trump rather than the police. Boots Riley shared his concerns that the movie didn’t do enough to highlight the harsh reality of police brutality and felt the movie was pro-police.
These well-thought out concerns don’t make Lee wrong, it’s just different than the movie Lee wanted to make. A movie can only cover so much: Lee chose his direction and sought to be effective in sending his message.
The movie stars John David Washington as Ron Stallworth, the first African-American cop in Colorado. Stallworth infiltrates the KKK over the phone, while Flip — played by Adam Driver — acts as Stallworth when they meet in person. Stallworth is eventually able to reach contact with David Duke, the leader of the KKK, played by Topher Grace.
To its core, BlacKkKlansman is a buddy-cop movie. Even though Lee denied that the film is a comedy, many of the key moments in the story are given a comedic tone. For example, many of Stallworth’s phone conversations with Duke should be the most intense moments of the movie, but they deliver some of the biggest laughs. While those moments were great, Washington and Driver’s chemistry is really the most enjoyable part of the movie. They both stand out in this movie and show that they are smart, determined cops.
The acting performances make the movie a fun watch, but the uneven storytelling prevents BlacKkKlansman from being one of Lee’s top movies. The movie centers around the infiltration of the KKK, but also include many scenes with Stallworth’s girlfriend Patrice Dumas where they argue about African-American culture and the steps needed to reach equality. The scenes are not poorly done, but they don’t relate to the rest of the movie or Washington’s character development. At the end of every argument, they agree-to-disagree, which does effectively show how difficult of a subject it is to discuss, but it is difficult to see how it adds to the overall ark of the story.
Another scene that struck me as tough to get passed occurs towards the end of the movie — Stallworth was assigned to be David Duke’s bodyguard. There is no way that actually happened, and it distracted me from the movie as I thought about how ridiculous it was to choose the one black cop, who has spoken to Duke multiple times, to protect him.
Washington’s performance does much more than hold his own, and has certainly earned enough respect to not just be known as Denzel’s son. While the movie has its flaws, the execution by the actors and actresses make the film fun, even if you won’t remember it after the final sequence. BlacKkKlansman has moments that’ll make you laugh, and will also have you leave the theater thinking.
What more could you ask for from a trip to the theater?