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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BlacKkKlansman 2018 * * * Stars

BlacKkKlansmanDirector: Spike Lee
Year: 2018
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier

Yup, I'm a fan of Spike Lee. Ever since I saw 1995's Clockers, he has been appointment movie time for me. Spike shoots films that other helmers would be hard pressed to touch. His work is involving, absorbing, compulsively watchable, and messy. In truth, I expect that familiar Terence Blanchard film score whenever a quote unquote, "Spike Lee Joint" is released. I also expect the obligatory Spike Lee cameo even though I can kinda do without it. Finally, I expected and got Isiah Whitlock Jr. giving us his patented catchphrase. You know, he's the actor that always says "sheee-t".

Image result for blackkklansman 2018 movie scenesIn BlacKkKlansman (my latest review), Lee opens the proceedings with a clip from Gone with the Wind (I'm not kidding). The director then chronicles the true story of one Ron Stallworth. Stallworth was the first African-American detective in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Also in the early 70's, Ron managed to infiltrate and uncover central Colorado's infamous Ku Klux Klan. On a side note, the character of Stallworth is played effectively by John David Washington (he happens to be Denzel Washington's son). When you watch John David move through BlacKkKlansman with big head of hair and strut in tote, you're reminded of his dad via Spike Lee's He Got Game from twenty years ago.

Like with most Spike Lee endeavors, there is controversy, race-related humor, and plot over plot mechanics. BlacKkKlansman is controversial with its uncomfortable racial epithets yet it's about as straightforward and non-violent a story as Lee has ever concocted (except for maybe 2006's Inside Man). Spike doesn't push the envelope here and at 135 minutes, he only scratches the surface of what unpleasantness BlacKkKlansman could've become.

Image result for blackkklansman 2018 movie scenesOh well. The actors pull you through (especially Topher Grace as a quirky David Duke and the chameleon-like Adam Driver), Spike's go-to cinematic tricks are intact, and BlacKkKlansman's message of hate and racism is relevant today as it was in 1970. How do I know this? Well all you gotta do is check out the ending news footage Lee provides in the form of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It ups the ante on an otherwise behaviorally tamed flick early on. My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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