BlacKkKlansman (2018, Spike Lee)

It’s funny until it’s not

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Spike Lee delivers a funny and equally chilling look into a world of hate and bigotry and offers an unnerving parallel between the world of the past and the world of today.

Following a string of generally mixed to poorly received projects, Spike Lee returns to form with his latest joint. With his usual stylistic flair, Lee recreates the borderline ludicrous story of Ron Stallman and his infiltration of a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The rhythmic editing work hand in hand with the natural pacing of the film allowing for a high-speed romp right into the heart of hatred and bigotry.

The performances of John David Washington as Ron Stallman and Adam Driver as Flip (Ron’s white surrogate undercover partner) steal the show. Washington brings to life an ambitious young cop, trying to prove himself in a world where nobody expects him to accomplish anything beyond sorting and fetching files whereas Driver exuberates a cool exterior that removes itself from the politics of the situation and just see’s the job as what it is, a job. Both characters bounce off each other and have great chemistry that results in multiple humorous moments as the two try to trick the Ku Klux Klan into allowing them into the chapter.

Actors Adam Driver and Jasper Pääkkönen with director Spike Lee on the set of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release. Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

Unfortunately the film tends to lose itself in its own bombastic flair which works during the comical moments but when applied to the more serious scenes, appears a bit grating, but these moments are few and far between as Lee manages to keep a consistent quality whilst constantly shifting the tone.

Whilst the film is set in the past, Lee attempts to remind the audience that the problems of the past are still very much the problems of today. Bigotry and hate still exist in modern communities and whilst it is good to look at them and laugh, relishing in how ridiculous and needless it all is, it’s only funny until someone gets hurt and Lee doesn’t shy away from revealing all to those who want to see.

Two shotOverall the film is a worthy title with plenty of style and great performances to boot. Whilst the film does get lost in itself as tonal shifts clash with stylistic choices, the majority of the film is a fun adventure that goes great lengths to show the audience that it is only funny until it’s not.

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