BlacKkKlansman: Black Cop Infiltrates Klan in Spike Lee’s Dramatic Comedy
By Kam Williams
Back in the ’70s, Ron Stallworth became the first African American to join the Colorado Springs Police Department. The young, ambitious college grad was soon promoted to detective, and his first undercover assignment was to cover a Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins) rally when the Black Power advocate was invited to speak at Colorado College.
However, his most unlikely mission was to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Using his real name, he answered a KKK classified ad recruiting new members, not knowing what to expect.
When the organization contacted him by phone, Ron adopted a white accent and complained that his sister was dating a black man. That was all it took for him to get invited to the next Klan meeting and to secure a membership card signed by Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace).
Instead of blowing his cover, Ron asked a colleague, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to attend the meetings to impersonate him. Despite several close calls, they managed to closely monitor the Klan’s movements over the next nine months.
That comical and life-threatening assignment is the focus of BlacKkKlansman, a thought-provoking dramatic comedy adapted by Spike Lee from Stallworth’s memoir of the same name. The movie won the Jury’s Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
The movie mocks the small-minded Klan members’ racist attitudes and behaviors. However, it simultaneously serves as a timely cautionary tale by juxtaposing that shameful chapter of American history with a closing credits newsreel of the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville last summer that culminated with the death of Heather Heyer when a white supremacist drove his car into a parade of peaceful counter-demonstrators.
This is a sobering movie that suggests that the Klan might very well rise again. It is easily Spike Lee’s best offering in recent years.
Excellent (****). Rated R for pervasive profanity, racial epithets, disturbing violence, sexual references, and mature themes. Running time: 135 minutes. Production Studio: 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Monkeypaw Productions/Blumhouse Productions/QC Entertainment/Legendary Entertainment/Perfect World Pictures. Distributor: Focus Features.