'BlacKkKlansman' Review: Provoking as it is entertaining

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Tanmay Shukla

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee, Adam Driver

BlacKkKlansman is an admirable adaptation of Ron Stallworth's memoir Black Klansman. It has everything that a film needs to be entertaining—comedy, drama, witty dialogues, rapidly unfolding plot, good music and a very effective score. The acting is excellent all around. Spike Lee makes no mistake as the director. The subject however is important and has scope for dramatic and provocative treatment which Lee ingeniously exploits to lift the tension and spirits in BlacKkKlansman.

Two detectives, Ron and Flip are are trying to find information about the Ku Klux Klan organisation. Ron fakes a "white accent” on phone, playing a white racist and right extremist to get a membership. He forgets to use a fake identity which forces him to send Flip instead to meet the members of the Klan. So Adam Driver is "playing a Jewish man (Flip Zimmerman), playing a black man, playing a racist white man” which is exactly as funny as it sounds.

The performances deserve high praise. Denzel Washington's son John David Washington plays Ron Stallworth. Ron is the first black officer in Colorado police. He is smart, fearless and a bit cocky. Ron being a person of colour and a pig (Black speak for cop) is a conflict that he has to confront and find a way through. His love interest Patrice (played by Laura Harrier) hates cops and has been subject to oppression on many occasions. Patrice is the president of black student union at Colorado College. She is devoted to her cause and politics is all that is in her mind, because “What’s more important?” she says. “I cannot let it rest. I am thinking about it all the time.” It has become their life.

Adam Driver is equally good, if not better. There are many fine actors in Hollywood but few as natural and at so much ease as he is. Whatever he is in, he never disappoints. There is a little confrontational scene in the middle. He says to Ron: “For you it's a crusade. For me it's a job.” Later, he confesses that he was “raised as a Jew around white kids” but now he was thinking about his heritage and identity. This reflection comes when Felix (at the Klan) hurls racial abuse directed at Jews while he is acting as one of the Klan.

Some might find a few problems with screenplay written by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, but it is the biggest strength of BlacKkKlansman even if it’s not perfect. In such a passionate film the impact of dialogues cannot be understated. The dialogues in BlacKkKlansman are powerful because they are direct and on your face. BlacKkKlansman’s ending is exponentially moreaffecting because of the dark comedy tone of the film.

Corey Hawkins plays Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) who sweeps everyone away with his galvanic speech on Black Power. Kwame is young and charged up. He is not using the language of poetry; he speaks the language of the youth. He has had enough and you can see the spark of revolution in his eyes. Corey is authoritative in his body language and tone. When he is speaking (lines like “We are Black and we are beautiful”) you cannot look away. Even Ron the cop is moved.

“How do you sell hate? By becoming a politician.” Topher Grace plays David Duke, grand wizard of the Klan. It is evident who is Spike Lee hinting at with lines like “make America great again” and “America first”. Topher Grace is very good in his part. He is measured in approach and is looking at the bigger picture, to infiltrate the system. All the actors look convincing in their roles which is expected from a Spike’s film.

Spike Lee makes no attempt to guise his message under a thick veil of metaphors, motifs or allusions. He is not subtle and he knows it. He has dedicated much of his attention to the execution of the demanding screenplay which anyways didn't require a lot of tinkering as in terms of narrative, it was already perfect.

Spike Lee gets on the face and serious in the end. If you didn't get his message so far, here is the actual, real footage of what's happening today. What you see is horrific and shocking. This is not fiction, this is non-fiction, this is real and this has not only happened in the past, this is happening right in front of our eyesright now. Final frame is the flag of distress. By the time it fades to black, the whole theatre was silent. BlacKkKlasman made all of us laugh, but in the end it left some in tears, and almost everyone in shock, I hope.

Note: BlacKkKlansman was recently screened at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2018.

Rating: 7/10

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

BlacKkKlansman - Official Trailer

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

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