Blu-ray Review: BlacKkKlansman

By , Contributor
Writer-director Spike Lee returns with his most commercial film in years, BlacKkKlansman, the utterly compelling story of Colorado Springs police officer Ron Stallworth. This is all based loosely on actual Stallworth's true story (who's source novel Black Klansman serves as the film's basis), though the quartet of credited screenwriters has taken significant liberties. But the basic narrative is essentially true, with Stallworth (played engagingly by John David Washington) in the 1970s becoming Colorado Springs first black officer. He makes a name for himself quite quickly and manages to infiltrate the local chapter of the KKK.

How? He has a white partner who serves as the face of the operation while Stallworth remains the voice. Adam Driver portrays Stallworth's partner Flip Zimmerman with quite intensity. Though the film never satisfactorily addresses the too-obvious difference between the two actors' voices, the scenes involving the Jewish Zimmerman uncomfortably interacting with the foul KKK members are entrancing. Nearly in over his head, Zimmerman becomes deeply embedded undercover in the KKK, with Stallworth's phone conversations eventually reaching then-Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke (Topher Grace; impressively slimy).

This material could've been played as straight as an arrow, solely for intense dramatic purposes. But Lee chose to infuse BlacKkKlansman with a particularly dry—though sometimes outrageous (not always to great effect)—sense of humor. The film is provocative and stuffed with ideas, but at the same time it's as funny as any mainstream comedy. The laughs pack a thoughtful punch however, as Stallworth battles racism within the precinct and other challenges.

Though we never truly learn what makes this driven detective tick, Washington (son of the legendary Denzel, himself a frequent Lee collaborator) delivers a uniquely offbeat performance as he shows Stallworth balancing an incredibly delicate act.

Universal Studios Blu-ray edition is disappointingly light on bonus features. The five-minute "A Spike Lee Joint" featurette attempts to crunch the film's entirely backstory into a promotional piece. There's also an Extended Trailer spotlighting the late Prince's "Mary Don't You Weep," a posthumously-released Gospel cover that serves as BlacKkKlansman's end credits theme.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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