FILM- BlacKkKlansman

 Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

For the second week in a row I am reviewing a movie “based on a true story.” Last week it was ‘Operation Finale’- about the capture of former Nazi SS officer Adolf Eichmann. This week it’s ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ Spike Lee’s take on how a black cop infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs back in 1978-79.

It’s based on the memoir of Ron Stallworth, played in the film by John David Washington- son of Denzel- who shows some signs of his father’s performance power and screen command. How does a black cop infiltrate an all-white organization? He started with a phone call. Stallworth calls the local Colorado Springs KKK office, makes his voice, as he says, “sound white” and starts spewing racist invectives, much to the delight of the local Klan leader, played almost sympathetically by Ryan Eggold.

Adam Driver (l); John David Washington;

When the time comes for Ron to attend a Klan meeting and meet the guys, Ron has to convince his police chief to assign a white officer to play him and take his place for the meeting. They decide on Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver. Things go well with everyone at the Klan meeting- except one suspicious Klansman, Felix, played with cunning malice by Jasper Paakonnen.

Spike Lee is a talented filmmaker and this might be his finest film yet. He manages to create suspense and tension as the circumstances of the two Ron’s Klan infiltration become progressively more dangerous but he also injects several funny moments- and a bit of romance as John David Washington’s Ron- while undercover at a rally- strikes a relationship with Patrice, a local college’s black organization president, played by Laura Harrier- with an affinity for controversial black activist Angela Davis. The danger level rises as the two Ron’s learn of a possible plot by their Klan office to detonate a bomb.

Laura Harrier, John David Washington,

Where much of the humor comes from is when black Ron calls the KKK’s national headquarters to try to get his membership card processed so he can have Flip (as him) attend their rallies and activities. When calling the national office, much to his delight, he reaches their president, David Duke, and proceeds to engage and mislead him- all while making a fool of Duke. It helps that David Duke is played by Topher Grace, most famous for playing Eric on ‘That 70’s Show,’ who was always absorbing harsh criticism with a deer-in-the-headlights expression from Red, his father.  So Grace- who grew up in Darien- is perfectly cast here.

Topher Grace as David Duke; The Hollywood Reporter

The undercover operation goes well and the two Ron’s unearth plans for an attack, disrupting it and capturing the criminals.  But that leads to a sudden end of the undercover task force- ostensibly because of budget cuts- and that, of course, leads to a resurgence in Klan activities.

If anyone feels the film itself doesn’t make a strong enough case that racism is still a problem in America (this despite some frequent Trump-like references from the KKK members wanting to “make our country great again”), Spike Lee throws the kitchen sink in at the end by showing footage and interviews from last year’s Charlottesville riots and attacks.

I didn’t feel that was necessary; it came off as too heavy handed for me- and Spike Lee isn’t known for subtlety- but that was about the only flaw in an otherwise excellent movie and I give ‘BlacKkKlansman’ 4-1/2 stars out of 5. It’s one of the best films of the year.

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