BlacKkKlansman ★★★½

Tricky one. Skillfully made, and Lee does an outstanding job of avoiding his dangerous excesses by staying tonally self-aware in his approach—as a result, there's some humor that lightens such a heavy subject up and fewer moments than I expected that bludgeon us over the head with a message that's obviously as out in the open as any message could be. Driver is tremendous, stealing every scene he's in; the Klan members are appropriately ignorant as all fuck but, in places, slyly savvy. Grace plays Duke with the proper tongue-in-cheek aplomb for the aforementioned tone that Lee takes here. And it's obviously wildly relevant, given what's happening in the world today—didn't mind the epilogue (though I would in other contexts), which actually seemed like a good contrast to BlacKkKlansman's darkly comic mood. But, in some ways, that's the problem; Lee doesn't really say anything provocative here, and as a result, it's more of a simple, reinforcing affirmation of all that we already know as opposed to especially emotional in its own right. Also, I just didn't find Washington a particularly gripping protagonist; his performance is fine, I guess, but it's certainly not captivating, and given his importance to any sort of real resonance or long-term relevance, that's not a great thing. And one of the more interesting potential strands—Driver's struggle with his own Jewish identity—is fascinatingly mentioned and then entirely abandoned; sure, you could argue that he felt more invested post-discussion, but he's also written in a way that one would imagine his sympathy with, and commitment to, the cause would continue to grow as he gets deeper and deeper in. Very good all in all, but not the return-to-elite-Spike (Do the Right Thing and 25th Hour in my book) that I'd hoped for.

pro (+)

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