Spike Lee delivers his most talked-about movie in years, with the racially-charged drama BlacKkKlansman.
The film, which at times injects humor into its cautionary message about racism, follows the true story of African-American detective Ron Stallworth, who infiltrated a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Based on the 2014 book, Black Klansman, the film stars John David Washington as Stallworth, who broke barriers as the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Hoping to make a name for himself, he comes up with a plan to expose the KKK.
Adam Driver portrays the Jewish cop tasked with becoming a card-carrying member of the KKK. Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Ryan Eggold, Alec Baldwin and Isiah Whitlock Jr. co-star.
The drama explores the roots of racism in America and its devastating consequences. Just before the credits role, the film jolts viewers with footage of the moment counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed at last summer’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Since BlacKkKlansman premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival and won the festival’s Grand Prix award, critics have continued to heap praise on the Spike Lee joint for its “fiery message.”
The Focus Features release has an impressive 97 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 110 out of 113 reviews ranking the film as fresh, as of Thursday afternoon.
“Spike Lee returns to form with a true-life story that works as comedy, crime drama and political alarm-bell all at once,” writes Rafer Guzman of Newsday.
Aramide A. Tinubu of Shadow and Act says the film isn’t subtle, but it’s effective.
“[Lee] draws bold parallels between the formal creation of the Klan after D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film Birth of the Nation and the civil rights movement’s waning influence giving rise to more rampant white supremacy that gave birth to Trump’s America,” Tinubu writes.
Kam Williams of EUR Web describes the film as “Spike’s best offering in ages.”
“What makes the picture work is the way in which it mocks the small-minded Klan members’ racist attitudes and behaviors,” Williams write.
Carla Renata of thecurvyfilmcritic.com states the film “hits a nerve.”
“BlacKkKlansman is the perfect movie for the perfect time and just goes to prove you never know who might be on the other end of that phone who will change your life for the better or the worse.”
While the events in the film took place in the 1970s, Entertainment Weekly writer Chris Nashawaty says the story remains relevant.
“BlacKkKlansman, is set four decades in the past, yet its fiery message couldn’t be more timely — and its rage more justified,” Nashawaty writes.
One of the few critics to offer a dissenting view is Cameron Meier of the Orlando Weekly, who describes the movie as a “cinematic sledgehammer.”
“Though the film offers sporadic laughs, I found it impossible to muster even a grin amid the onslaught of nauseating racial, ethnic, homophobic and misogynist slurs that the actors utter,” Meier writes.
A.O. Scott of The New York Times completely disagrees.
“BlacKkKlansman is a furious, funny, blunt and brilliant confrontation with the truth. It’s an alarm clock ringing in the midst of a historical nightmare, and also a symphony, the rare piece of political popular art that works in all three dimensions,” Scott writes. “Don’t sleep on this movie.”
BlacKkKlansman opens nationwide on Friday, August 10.