Arts

Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman a powerful true story

Spike Lee chronicles an outlandish true story of a black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, in BlacKkKlansman

Laura Harrier as Patrice Dumas and John David Washington as Detective Ron Stallworth
Damon Smith

BLACKkKLANSMAN (15, 135 mins) Drama/Comedy/Romance. Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Ken Garito, Jasper Paakkonen, Ryan Eggold, Ashley Atkinson, Robert John Burke, Corey Hawkins, Frederick Weller. Director: Spike Lee.

Rating: 4 stars

RELEASED almost exactly one year after the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, BlacKkKlansman handcuffs racial divisions in present-day America to the outlandish true story of a black police detective, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.

Director Spike Lee's impassioned, conscience-pricking satire on corruption and bigotry is based on a memoir by retired Colorado Springs officer Ron Stallworth and walks a tightrope between fact and stranger-than-fiction, seizing every opportunity to echo battle cries of the 2016 US presidential election.

Thus, David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who is portrayed on screen by Topher Grace, proudly addresses a room of his ardent supporters and sincerely thanks them for putting America first.

"America will never elect somebody like David Duke president of the United States," scoffs detective Ron (John David Washington) to colleagues on the force.

Lee, who co-wrote the script, makes abundantly clear his thoughts on history repeating and he bookends his call-to-arms with sickening footage from Charlottesville of a car being driven at speed into counter-protesters, which left one woman dead and many other people injured.

A disorienting opening salvo featuring Alec Baldwin as a tub-thumping white supremacist segues to Colorado Springs.

Ron (Washington) is persuaded to join the local police force as part of a diversity drive.

This doesn't include visibility because Ron is consigned to the records room, where he suffers abuse from fellow officers like Andy Landers (Frederick Weller).

Eventually, Ron compels Chief Bridges (Robert John Burke) and Sergeant Trapp (Ken Garito) to utilise him in the field and he goes undercover at a local rally organised by Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), president of the black student union, who has invited civil rights leader Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) to speak to the membership.

Back at headquarters, Ron responds to a newspaper advertisement for new members for the Ku Klux Klan and he impresses local chapter president Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold).

Ron foolishly gives his own name over the telephone so when the time comes to meet Walter in person, Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) poses as Ron and spits out racist bile on cue to perpetrate the deception.

Walter's second-in-command Felix Kendrickson (Jasper Paakkonen) isn't convinced but his concerns are overruled when the real Ron develops a telephone friendship with David Duke (Grace), who is due to visit Colorado Springs in a few weeks.

BlacKkKlansman nestles uncomfortable truths in an outlandish narrative, which pays tribute to "the Jackie Robinson of the Colorado Springs police force" as he outwits the KKK from the inside.

Washington and Driver are a groovy double-act and the script strikes a pleasing balance between suspense and humour.

Lee occasionally over-eggs his deliciously tart pudding like his choice to juxtapose climactic scenes of characters chanting "Black Power" and "White Power".

Sometimes, restraint lands the heaviest blows.

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