“BlackKklansman” is going to hit about 50% of the country in that sweet spot. The rest it’s going to leave cold. Why is that? Have we become so politicized as a nation that a real-life tale of heroism against organized crime can get recolored by modern life? Honestly, I think the montage at the end of the film makes the case for it. How much of that is Spike Lee auteur flair and how much of that is barely hidden agenda?
“Chi-Raq” is finally getting the praise that it deserves almost 3 years of its release. While I’m a big fan of better late than never, it’s also telling. Modern life becoming radicalized changes tastes in everything from the Arts to cuisine to fashion. That’s not to say that there wasn’t strife in the Obama era or prior. But, Trump’s America thrives on strive. You are either resisting, supporting MAGA or trying to stay isolated from the sweeping sea of change smacking at your feet.
Spike Lee doesn’t give a damn about your desire to stay removed from the struggle. If one American suffers, then they all suffer from a wicked machinery that a certain part of the populace won’t let die. Officer Ron Stallworth is a charming person and has spoken at length about his time infiltrating the KKK and working as the first African American cop in Colorado Springs. But, outside of the KKK…it was never considered that big of a story until now.
Why is that? Officers like Stallworth opened new venues for policing and beginning to establish community standards of trust. That being said, he’s still a cop. When his lady friend Patrice rejects him, it’s not because he lied about what he does. Carl Stallworth has become part of the authority that breeds things like the KKK, local rednecks and the ever-pressing boot on the back of so many Americans. Stallworth is a good person and he’s making progress within an antiquated system. But, he still wears the uniform of the problem.
This point is highlight best in John David Washington and Adam Driver’s arguments over infiltrating the KKK. They are both marginalized people, but they also want to hide behind the freedom that the uniform gives them. However, Driver still passes as a Christian white male to anyone that sees him. When he does get outed in the movie, it’s only because a former perp IDs him and fails to make the connection to David Duke.
In that way, we look back on John David Washington as being one of the most tragic figures in a Spike Lee movie. He is an educated black man that gets the best of the Grand Wizard of the KKK. However, he’s still going to be a lower-tier African American officer in a predominantly white area of Colorado. Any advancement he makes will compared to what is made by Adam Driver’s Flip Zimmerman. By the way, what a bizarre cosmic happening with that last name.
If anything, the film’s final 10 minutes highlights the frustration of being the lone minority voice attempting to police the worst of white society. No matter how many good ol’ boys you bust or watch burn themselves alive, someone bigger always escapes. David Duke is still alive and endorsing Trump. Trump is also using many of the old methodology in a way to reach a nation of Good Ol’ Boys hiding in out-of-the-way areas and many police departments across the country.
Hell, I can’t wait for a Stallworth commentary on the film. I want to know what he thinks of what Spike Lee did here. “BlackKklansman” is a Gary Cooper western where Cooper gets told that he did a good job for shooting Lee Marvin in a supporting role. Then, the bad guys get to keep doing what they’re doing with the support of his town. In the best sense, Spike Lee has a made a Western for our times. There are no happy endings, just an acknowledgment that one lone lawman isn’t enough to fix a system that is rotten to its core.
- 2 hrs and 8 mins
- Focus Features