BlacKkKlansman ★★★

Spike Lee's BLACKKKLANSMAN has a lot to commend it, most notably good performances and a great sense of tension. But many problems weigh it down, the greatest of which is its complete and utter lack of subtlety.

In many ways, the film is the progressive left's version of preachy Christian film, but with good acting and craftsmanship. The film's villains are incompetent morons, to such an extent that their posing an actual violent threat seems doubtful. I highly doubt that any viewers already predisposed to see A Spike Lee film will see themselves in a raving drunk who asks about C4 while in a rusty pickup truck.

Then there's the modern references, cringey in moments but nigh unbearable in the film's closing minutes. By tying the racism of the 70s to recent images, one would think the efforts of Stallworth were completely useless in the long run and zero progress has been made.

I don't say this as someone who thinks we're past racism. I don't think that. But Lee's cynicism undercuts his narrative here, and weakens the impact of the story. There's no real rallying cry and little willingness to appreciate the incremental impact of what Stallworth was able to accomplish. It's for these reasons I come away from it as frustrated as I am impressed.

But I don't want my complaints to take away from the fact that there is a lot I enjoyed. The script is frequently funny, and the performances from Washington and Driver are really great. Their chemistry works well, and it's for that reason that most of the film is highly entertaining. Had it not been so throttled by its own frustration, it might have been one of my favorite movies of the year.

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