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BlacKkKlansman (dir. Lee)

Image: Adam Driver and John David Washington playing Flip and Ron respectively © Property of Focus Features. [Source: IMDB]

★★★★☆

Spike Lee’s latest joint is layered with some Tarantino-esque stylings as he unchains Ron Stallworth in 1970s Colorado. As Stallworth infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a white surrogate (Adam Driver) to tackle the local branch of the KKK and some topical issues of modern-day America.

Director: Spike Lee. Starring: Adam Driver, John David Washington [15]

How dare you say Tarantino-esque you might say. But to those of you querying that statement, I put forth this. Lee’s latest joint lacks the nuanced, familiar, on the ground level of storytelling of the likes of his earlier work such as Do The Right Thing. Sure Lee’s has always told his stories with an extra bit of flair but I felt the characters were always honest depictions. What pushes this joint into Tarantino’s ball pack is the duality in BlacKkKlansnman of humour and shocking violence.

That is not to say that Lee’s characters here are not real, they most certainly are based on real people and to quote the movie some “fo real sh*t”. But there is a distancing caused by the overblown comedic aspect of it. Instead of being humorous in a cannot believe that happened sort of way, it plays on moments for laughs. It’s a direction I’m not completely satisfied with but it also adds a remarkable strategy to the ending of the film. The jarring disposition between the buddy cop comedy taking down racists, switching to real, things happening now footage. Not only is a perfect example of how film tells a story of the times it is made (even if it is holding the viewers hand the whole way through with about as much subtly as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent) but it also captures the true horror of the current political climate of America.

While some links to current time America are eye-roll worthy, it doesn’t detract from the overall statement of the movie. Unfortunately, for the most part, it is a statement softly spoken between the lines of a joke, a joke that sadly oftentimes detracts from the dramatic punch it wants to have. There is a lot of duality in BlacKkKlansman, it’s an element weaved throughout right down to the cinematography which is stunningly period accurate with some serious 70s aesthetic, matching the period aesthetic’s of the mise en scene and wardrobe. But then there is the modern-day flair in its filmic style, the stylings of its dialogue and plot structure as well as its comedy. While this is not the most impressive of Lee’s work, not all too fresh in terms of ideas and issues faced. It still manages to be a great addition to his filmography and just another comment in the discussions going on. BlacKkKlansman is a fun, dramatic, horrifying, comedic, fake and real depiction of racism and the kind of poison that runs through the veins of America, old and new.

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