Black Cop Infiltrates Klan in Fact-Based Dramedy from Spike Lee
Back in the Seventies, Ron Stallworth became the first African-American to join the Colorado Springs Police Department. The ambitious, young, college grad was soon promoted to detective, and his initial undercover case involved covering a Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins) rally when the incendiary Black Power advocate was invited to speak at Colorado College.
But his most unlikely mission involved infiltrating the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Here’s how that came to pass. Using his real name, he impulsively answered a classified ad recruiting new members, not knowing what to expect.
When the organization subsequently contacted him by phone, Ron adopted a white accent and complained bitterly about his sister’s dating a black man. That was all that it took for him to get invited to the next Klan meeting and to secure a membership card signed by Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace).
Instead of blowing his cover by showing up himself, Ron asked a Jewish colleague, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to attend and impersonate him. Despite several close calls, the two managed to closely monitor the Klan’s movements over the next nine months.
That alternately comical and life-threatening assignment is the focus of BlacKkKlansman, a thought-provoking dramedy adapted by Spike Lee from Stallworth’s memoir of the same name. The movie made quite a splash at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, where it won the Jury’s Grand Prize.
What makes the picture work is the way in which it mocks the small-minded Klan members’ racist attitudes and behaviors. However, it simultaneously serves as a timely cautionary tale by juxtaposing that shameful chapter of American history with a closing credits newsreel of the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville last summer which culminated with the murder of Heather Heyer when a white supremacist plowed his car into a parade of peaceful counter-demonstrators.
A sobering Spike Lee Joint suggesting that the Klan might very well rise again, especially given equivocating President Trump’s frustrating refusal to take sides. Easily, Spike’s best offering in ages!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity, racial epithets, disturbing violence, sexual references and mature themes
Running time: 135 minutes
Production Studio: 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks / Monkeypaw Productions / Blumhouse Productions / QC Entertainment / Legendary Entertainment / Perfect World Pictures
Distributor: Focus Features
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening August 10, 2018
BlacKkKlansman (R for pervasive profanity, racial epithets, disturbing violence, sexual references and mature themes) John David Washington (Denzel’s son) stars as the title character in Spike Lee’s Cannes Grand Prize-winning adaptation of African-American detective Ron Stallworth’s memoir about infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in 1979. With Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Harry Belafonte, Alec Baldwin and Corey Hawkins.
Dog Days (PG rude humor, suggestive content and mild epithets) Ensemble comedy, set in L.A., revolving around a group of strangers whose lives serendipitously intersect with the help of their pet pooches. Cast includes Vanessa Hudgens, Eva Longoria, Nina Dobrev, Finn Wolfhard and Thomas Lennon.
The Meg (PG-13 for action, peril, profanity and bloody images) Sci-fi thriller revolving around a deep-sea diver (Jason Statham) recruited by a research scientist (Winston Chao) to rescue the crew of a disabled submarine sitting on the ocean floor where it is being circled by a 75-foot long, prehistoric shark thought to be extinct. With Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose and Jessica McNamee.
Slender Man (PG-13 for profanity, terror, disturbing images, crude sexual references and mature themes) Adaptation of the creepy internet legend about a skinny stalker with a featureless face (Javier Botet) responsible for the mysterious disappearance of countless kids. Co-starring Joey King, Jaz Sinclair, Taylor Richardson and Talitha Bateman.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN
BuyBust (Unrated) High-body count crime thriller, set in Manila, about a narcotics detective (Anne Curtis) forced to shoot her way out of the city’s most dangerous slum after surviving the slaughter of the rest of her squad by crooked cops and a drug cartel. With Brandon Vera, Victor Neri and Arjo Atayde. (In Filipino, Tagalog and English with subtitles.)
Madeline’s Madeline (Unrated) Newcomer Helena Howard makes her screen debut as the title character of this psychological thriller as a troubled teen actress encouraged by a theater director (Molly Parker) to allow her dysfunctional relationship with her mother (Miranda July) to influence her performance in a play. With Julee Cerda, Okwui Okpokwasili, Sunita Mani and Curtiss Cook.
A Prayer Before Dawn (R for rape, violence, drug use, sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity) Adaptation of British boxer Billy Moore’s (Joe Cole) memoir about being forced to fight in Muay Thai tournaments to gain his freedom from a Bangkok prison. Supporting cast includes Komsan Polsan, Pornchanok Mabklang and Nicolas Shake. (In English and Thai with subtitles.)
Pretty Bad Actress (Unrated) Crime comedy about a fledgling actress (Heather McComb) forced to save herself when she’s kidnapped after an audition. Support cast includes Jillian Bell, Danny Woodburn, Amy Buchwald and West Liang.
Skate Kitchen (R for pervasive profanity, drug use, nudity and graphic sexuality) Coming-of-age drama about a suburban teen (Rachelle Vinberg) befriended by female skateboarders in NYC. With Nina Moran, Jaden Smith, Ardelia Lovelace and Kabrina Adams.
Summer of ’84 (Unrated) Suspense thriller about a teenager (Graham Verchere) who recruits his friends to help monitor the cop next-door neighbor (Rich Sommer) he suspects is the serial killer terrorizing their town. Cast includes Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery and Cory Gruter-Andrew.