"What Positive Can Come from a Movie That Spurs So Much Anger?"
What You Need To Know:
BLACKkKLANSMAN is inspired by a true, and fascinating, story and could have been a funny, thrilling movie. Sadly, this isn’t the case. There’s sloppy direction, poor writing and bad acting. Frustratingly, the movie’s main message is to equate President Trump with David Duke and the KKK. The movie only adds fuel to an already dangerous racial fire, instead of offering positive solutions to America’s current political and social climate. The movie also has lots of gratuitous, strong foul language. All in all, BLACKkKLANSMAN is excessive and unacceptable.
BLACKkKLANSMAN is an angry, racially charged crime “comedy” from Spike Lee about a black Colorado police officer in the 1960s who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan.
The movie begins with a strange PSA video starring Alec Baldwin as a white supremacist who’s claiming that America was always meant to be exclusively white, and that all people of color are ravaging the land and people. The movie then introduces the hero, Ron Stallworth, a brand new officer for the Colorado Springs Police Department, the first black man on the force. Ron’s prepped ahead of time that he’ll have to handle other racist cops, and that he’ll need to “turn the other cheek.”
Ron’s superiors eventually ask Ron to go undercover at a speech hosted by the Black Student Union where a former Black Panther leader, Kwame Ture, is speaking. They want Ron to make sure he doesn’t incite the crowd to violence. At the event, Ron befriends the female leader of the Black Student Union, Patrice, who’s on fire for the liberation movement, but he doesn’t tell her he’s a cop.
Keeping an eye on people of his own race gives Ron an idea after he sees an ad for the KKK in the newspaper. Ron calls the KKK and asks to join the racist organization, after spewing racist garbage about how much he hates black people and Jews. The person on the phone is pleased and invites Ron to meet with the group.
Now that Ron has created contact, his superior agrees to let Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) impersonate Ron at the meeting. Thus, Ron will be the voice, and Flip will be the face. The goal is to find out if the KKK is planning anything violent.
Meanwhile, Ron befriends KKK leader David Duke over the phone and dupes him into approving his KKK membership more quickly. As Ron and Flip get deeper into the KKK, they start to see there’s a plan to attack the Black Student Union, and more specifically, Patrice, for whom Ron is growing fond.
BLACKkKLANSMAN is inspired by a true, and fascinating story and could have been a funny and thrilling movie. Sadly, this is not the case. The first glaring problems are Spike Lee’s uneven tone, editing, and directing. Three are strange cuts of the same action from multiple angles, and it jolts the viewers for no apparent reason. The dialogue starts off ironic, with the racist dialogue portrayed comically (which is offensive in its own right), but it never evolves into something smarter. The dialogue just becomes increasingly racist and gross, and Spike expects the audience to laugh at it. When the dialogue isn’t racist, the story drags with long preachy monologues. Finally, John David Washington gives a one-dimensional performance as Ron, a clearly multidimensional character.
Frustratingly, BLACKkKLANSMAN’s one purpose is to argue that President Donald Trump is no different from KKK leader David Duke, and to stir deeper anger in America about racism. Throughout the movie, characters make jabs at Trump, using language like “Making America Great” as a racist phrase used by Klan members. If somehow you didn’t catch that Lee was equating Trump with Duke in the movie, he makes it clear at the end by playing news footage of the Charlottesville protests last year that became deadly and tragic, with news footage of Trump’s press conference statements quickly edited with David Duke voicing his support for Trump. This inclusion is on the nose and expunges any artistic nuance the movie might have had.
Whether one agrees with all, some, or none of President Trumps policies, or temperament, Spike Lee’s attempt to dump fuel on an already raging racial fire is incredibly irresponsible. For those people who hate Trump already, the only response is stronger anger, and maybe even violence. For those who approve of the President’s policies or combative rhetoric, the movie will also stir a defensive anger because no one like’s being accused of being a racist (except for actual racists like those in the KKK or other racist organizations). What positive can come from a movie like this?
The movie’s final news footage of Charlottesville is sobering, disturbing and tragic. Actual racism, where people believe that one ethnic race is superior to another goes against the very grain of Christianity, and the truth that man was created in God’s image. Racism is a sin as old as time, and it’s one that stands in opposition to the ways of Jesus. It violates Christ’s depiction of the love and compassionate spirit expressed by the Good Samaritan toward the victimized stranger and by such biblical passages as Exodus 23:9, which says, “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Because of this, racism is also a sin that can’t be eliminated with violence. This is where the Spike Lee’s movie fails. It never makes an appeal for human dignity, empathy, or trying to see things from another person’s perspective. It simply incites anger, and then sets people loose.
There are moments in BLACKkKLANSMAN where characters, like Patrice, are forced to see that you don’t have to have a racial revolution to do some good, like the good that Ron does on the police force. However, even this is quickly diminished when Ron’s superior forces the undercover team to destroy any evidence that the KKK was planning an attack. Other positive elements are that racism is shown as evil, and there are some positive representations of law enforcement (though there are bad cops as well).
Five years ago, this reviewer asked Spike Lee in an interview what he wanted audiences to walk away with after watching one of his movies he was promoting. The acclaimed filmmaker quickly responded that he doesn’t answer questions like that. He wanted viewers to have their own personal take on the movie. It seems that Lee is moving away from this type of filmmaking. Instead of telling a compelling story of one black police officer fighting against a racist organization, and allowing this story to entertain and move viewers, Lee just wants people to get angry – angry at the President and angry at anyone.