Since the mid-1980s, prolific filmmaker Spike Lee has been blowing our minds with films such as “She’s Gotta Have It”, “Do The Right Thing”, “Jungle Fever”, “Malcolm X”, “25th Hour”, “Inside Man”, and more recently “Chi-Raq”. Along the way, especially during the late `90s and early years of the 21st century, Lee stumbled a bit with films such as “Girl 6”, “Bamboozled”, “Red Hook Summer” and “Old Boy”.
His 2018 feature film “BlacKkKlansman” (Universal/Focus/Legendary), now available on Blu-Ray+Digital, may be his best movie yet. As it says onscreen, the movie is “based upon some fo’ real sh*t” as well as the book by Ron Stallworth.
In the early 1970s, at a time when the Colorado Springs police force was hiring, and minorities were encouraged to apply, Stallworth (portrayed by John David Washington), a “young, hip, soul brother”, did so and was hired. The job interview scene alone is worth the price of admission.
As a rookie he is relegated to pulling files in the records room. But he’s frustrated because he knows he’s meant for better things. He gets his big break when he goes undercover to attend a speaking engagement by former Black Panther Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins), formerly known as Stokely Carmichael. Wearing a wire at the event, Stallworth meets and is smitten by Patrice (Laura Harrier), president of the Black Student Union at that college where Ture is speaking.
Emboldened by the successful infiltration, Ron makes his next move. He calls the phone number listed in an advertisement by the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. When he gets a returned call and arranges to meet with the local chapter head Walter (Ryan Eggold), things get complicated, seeing as how he’s black and all.
Officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) is assigned to represent Ron in person while the actual Ron continues his phone relationship with Walter. Flip’s Ron is approved by Walter while the even more insidious Klansman Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen) has serious doubts about him.
Everything reaches its dramatic peak on the day that two important figures comes to Colorado Springs. Activist Jerome Turner (Harry Belafonte) comes to speak to the Black Student Union. The Klan’s national director David Duke (Topher Grace) attends the swearing-in ceremony for Flip’s Ron and others. On this day, Flip’s true identity risks being revealed while Felix’s horrible wife Connie (Ashlie Atkinson) has been recruited to leave a bomb at Patrice’s residence.
In the end everyone gets their comeuppance, including racist cop Landers (Frederick Weller). Especially poignant is the way that Lee incorporates footage from the August 2017 rally and protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, perfectly linking the past to the present.
With Thanksgiving upon us, and political and racial tensions at their peak, this might not be the movie to watch with the family. But you should definitely see it, before or after the holiday.
Blu-Ray+Digital bonus features include “A Spike Lee Joint” in which producer Jordan Peele and the cast, as well as the real-life Stallworth talk about the experience of working with director Lee, and the “BlacKkKlansman” extended trailer which features Prince’s “Mary Don’t You Weep”.
Rating: A-