In 2012, when Obama was president and racism in America seemed to be fading, Django Unchained featured a notorious scene with the Ku Klux Klan. Squabbling about eyeholes and spare bags, the white supremacist hate group were reduced to an incompetent laughing stock. In 2018, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman mocks them with just as much relish, but this time out of necessity.
Ron (John David Washington), the first black cop in Colorado Springs, and Flip (Adam Driver), a non-practising Jew, go undercover in the Klan in a raucous farce reaching Coen-esque levels of complexity and brilliance.
If Lee’s labyrinthine plot occasionally misses a beat or stumbles in a hole, it’s easy to forgive considering his grand ambition. He’s attempted to make a blockbuster, laugh out loud comedy about the Ku Klux Klan whilst also sincerely critiquing contemporary race relations. For the most part, he succeeds. There are countless hilarious scenes revolving around Ron’s undercover identity, but also heart-breaking moments reminding the audience just how much cruelty the KKK and those like them have brought to the world.
Just like the infamous gold on Radio Raheem’s knuckles, this is a film about love and hate. Those who choose hatred get the mockery and condemnation they deserve, their alt-right hoods ripped away. And those who need love the most right now, the people of colour oppressed and killed across America and the world, get that too.
They get a righteous action hero fighting the Klan, they get a glorious montage of black faces in close-up intercut with a speech for black freedom, and in a final killer blow they get a contemporary documentary finale reminding us all the ways this period piece is still in the present. Spike Lee couldn’t have picked a better moment to make his best film in years.
CAST: Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Laura Harrier
DIRECTOR: Spike Lee
WRITERS: Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Charlie Wachtel (screenplay) and Ron Stallworth (book)
SYNOPSIS: Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan and became the head of the local chapter.