If there are two things filmmaker Spike Lee isn’t, that’s subtle and calm. BlacKkKlansman is one of Lee’s angriest films of his career and that’s not me speaking. Many are praising the film’s brash tone as it attempts to draw a parallel to the Trump Administration. Back in May, Lee stated that this film was a wake up call against right-wing bullshit citing Charlottesville. So by making a film where members of the KKK repeat Trump’s campaign slogans such as ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘America First’ it isn’t hard to understand the universal praise because the film hates Trump as much as they do. So the question here is does the film commitment to attack Trump take away from the true story of Ron Stallworth?
BlackKkKlansman is a film based on the true story of Ron Stallworth an African-American detective in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Back in 1978, Ron manages to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan via phone conservation and sending white Detective Flip Zimmerman to have face to face meetings when needed. By using this con, Stallworth eventually becomes the head of the chapter in a cunning takedown. Much like The First Purge, BlackKkKlansman is all about condemning Donald Trump and his supporters. The main villain, David Duke is presented to link the KKK directly to the president. Of course David Duke was a member of the Democratic party this time (which he stayed in until the 1990s) muddying the waters of the southern strategy defense of the Democrat party’s history with the Klan, but when dealing with a film like this, you have to accept the filmmaker will take liberties with the story to progress his narrative.
That’s really the problem with this film, Lee spends so much of his time trying to link the racism of the 1970s to today, and you forget there is a good story to tell here. The central story is mostly true to what about in real life outside of some obvious liberties and translates to a very interesting story. At the same time, the tone is very jarring because the threat of the Klan is realized on-screen but the characters come off as too cartoonish and stupid to be taken seriously as a threat. The constant flip-flopping between a politically incorrect buddy comedy to damning the current political climate ultimately makes the film uneven, it’s basically trying to have your cake and eat it too. Much like Chiraq, BlackKkKlansman feels more like an Amazon film in production. Spike Lee is a take it or leave it director, but with a more focused and straight story, this could have been something much more.