As so much of wide-released American film subsides into a smiling stultification, Lee remains as forthright and critical as ever; it’s appropriate that our era of living under a New York real-estate huckster gets one of its most powerful responses from an elbows-out, indefatigable Brooklynite.
Reclaiming cultural touchstones has been a career motif for Lee, who first crossed swords with The Birth of a Nation in his 1980 student film, but here he manages to wrest the very grammar of filmmaking from Griffith in the film’s bravura climactic montage.
January 02, 2019
Lee made the didactic BlacKkKlansman to move audiences, which he succeeds in doing despite the feeling that the film has been stitched together from everywhere.
Aside from a comedy, a thriller, and the best script Lee has had in years, this is something else: a movie about movies, from the open racism of Birth of a Nation to the Confederate nostalgia of Gone with the Wind to the rumblings of blaxploitation. If you take it as a straight movie, it has its slips. As a pastiche, it's brilliant. And its message for 2018 is that laughing at an Alec Baldwin sketch isn't enough.
A very moving story, and this is probably Spike Lee's best in years, but without the cinematography of Ernest Dickerson, Lee doesn't have much pizzazz as a filmmaker. Or even a distinctive style; it felt like this film might have been made by anyone, and if I hadn't known that this was a Spike Lee film, I never would have guessed. 3.5*
Probably an unpopular opinion: the frequent allusions to Trump took me out of the movie whenever they reared their head—kind of like how the footage of Charlottesville at the end would have been even more powerful if it had been allowed to play with diegetic sound instead of Terence Blanchard's bombastic score. The film is at its best when Spike Lee finds that sweet spot between 70's cop drama and blaxploitation.
It is a shame that Spike Lee resorts to some very conventional film narrative tactics (as in the musical underlining of suspensful or salutory scenes), which remove the rough edges of a film that could easily be credited with bringing issues of discrimination and white supremacy back to the agenda. The disjunctive intro is great, the acting solid (both leads), and the finale turns disqueting and infuriatingly true.
I had a hard time sitting through this but for all the wrong reasons. BKkK is well meaning and timely, but Lee's liberties are so clunky and hamfisted. It's only feted because post-racialism has been so spectacularly exposed as a crock. It's only the thematic content not the craft of this film that's impactful. The endnote inclusion of footage from Charlottesville is a powerful choice, though.
4.5 Every time I see Spike Lee's joint, I'm surprised by how raw and direct his joint is. "Blackkklansman" is the delightful example of this tendency which shake audiences in palvarizing way. The cutback between white supremarist enjoning "Birth of a Nation" and black people sharing with their heartbreaking pain is one of most impactful critiques on America's racistic sickness I've ever seen. Bombastic as fuck.
I was expecting the offensively simplistic, black & white (no pun intended) politics, since it is a Spike Lee film. What I wasn't expecting was the lack of style or anger that usually accompany Lee's films, which are usually a fault of them. But here, having gone completely in the opposite direction, it makes for a generic and bland movie. It's a shame given the solid performances by Washington, Driver, and Grace.
This is tough material Spike Lee is dealing with, and yet, he makes it an easy, pleasant watch. A word of praise for the energetic performances from Washington and Driver and the awesome score by jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard. (3.5 stars)