Spike Lee directs John David Washington, Adam Driver and Laura Harrier in this true story recreation of the black Colorado cop who infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan in 1973.
Spike Lee on a comeback. I’m there. I’m in. I held onto the legend longer than most. Critically he went off the boil around Clockers in 1995. But I stayed with him and would say He Got Game, Get On the Bus, 25th Hour and Inside Man are among his best. After that his projects struggled to get much of a release over here in the UK, and my appetite dwindled also. I own Chi-Raq on DVD but have felt no pressing hurry to unwrap the cellophane from the packaging. But now we have a heavily marketed, universally acclaimed, multiplex bothering, Cannes Grand Prix winning “return to form” and it’s… O.K.? BlacKkKlansman is an intriguing story on paper, the concept pops. But the reality is the investigation was stunted before it really got going and the benefits of it were minimal. Once you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve kinda seen the film. There’s not much more to the history than a stranger than fiction hook. Spike is as cinematically playful and as incendiary as ever. Therefore the film is unsurprisingly a mixed bag. The thriller elements are weak and watery, the attempts to satirically future echo the slogans and attitudes of the Trump administration become overbearingly obvious. Less is more once we’ve got that joke. The romance works, as do the scenes were Washington and Driver become woke of their own endurance of everyday racism. The ragtag rhythm of fiery didacticism and laidback period caricature produces only a few moments of true power. Lee seems emboldened when he recreates speeches of historical figures. The sequences replicating the oratory of Kwame Ture, Jerome Turner and Kennebrew Beauregard are captivating. They are also the most obviously bolted on additions, extraneous to the narrative. There’s social horror too… the Klan guffawing at The Birth of a Nation’s dated racism is uncomfortable viewing, the use of video footage depicting a white supremacist ploughing his car into Charlottesville protesters in 2017 proves devastating. It makes for quite the punctuation point. But if you were sold by the trailer advertising a hip, zany thriller then you are gonna walk out unsated.