Jon Baley’s review published on Letterboxd:
Spike Lee is not a subtle director. When he wants to say something, he says it. Because of that, he can be hit or miss depending on the movie. I think this manages to hit more than it misses.
The true story behind this is amazing, and it’s good to see it told. On top of that, the cast is excellent. Every person plays their part well, especially John David Washington. While he doesn’t nail it perfectly, he has a true charisma and star quality behind him (not surprisingly due to his parentage). We even see Michael Buscemi, Steve’s brother, and I’m shocked I don’t see him more. He’s good here and could easily double the amount of Buscemis in film, and Hollywood needs to quit sitting on that. Topher Grace is excellent as David Duke, and you get a beautiful monologue from Harry Belafonte about halfway through the movie.
Like I said, the biggest issue is Lee’s bluntness. He hammers home the correlations between present day politics and the events of the movie. Most directors would make that connection without stopping the movie to point it out, while Lee goes in swinging. That’s not going to work for a lot of people, but these correlations can’t be left to subtleties anymore. This movie taps into the zeitgeist, and whether or not that will work in its favor in the long run or not we’ll have to wait and see, but if nothing else Ron Stallworth’s story deserved to be told and I’m glad I got to see it.