Tony (tectactoe)’s review published on Letterboxd:
So, why the two Rons? Did I miss something? The movie itself even vaguely nods at how dumb/incredulous that is, when upon first meeting with the Klan, one of the members says something like, ”You sound different on the phone.” I cannot fathom why, from that point onward, Flip wouldn’t just assume the full-time roll of Ron Stallworth, even on the phone back at the office. Flip and (the real) Ron don’t even sound remotely alike. Unless there’s a specific reason that I somehow didn’t catch, it’s just a silly plot mechanism which, literally, the entire film is built from. That it manages to still be mostly entertaining despite such colossal nonsense is a testament to Lee’s sharp direction. His predilection for pushing the boundaries as far as he thinks they’ll go helps occasionally, but it also gets to be a bit much at times, honestly, like the hootin’ and hollerin’ of what would appear to be a ritualistic BIRTH OF A NATION screening (the major difference being Lee’s exaggerative style is used almost exclusively for comedy here, whereas in e.g. DO THE RIGHT THING, it was fitted towards a greater dramatic effect, engendering actual, moral conundrums from its microcosmic model). Also feels a little like Lee’s trying to do too much—making Flip a Jew e.g. has no “real” purpose other than (1) ostensibly giving him “a dog in the race,” which, ehh, and (2) making his impending capture by the Klan scarier because, well, he’s a Jew, I guess. The “bomb” side-plot is also <barf>, and leads to probably the most anticlimactic conclusion in cinematic history, esp. given the relatively tense build-up. (When Flip is identified by one of the members at the induction, I was indeed sweating bullets—the subsequent three-(four?!)way showdown in the middle of the street, by comparison, lays a fat egg.) Closing footage is indeed haunting, but it’d be haunting in literally any context, and throwing it at the end of your Political Film doesn’t somehow aggrandize said film’s power—if anything it only made me realize how malleable Lee’s sense of humor (?) makes racism feel in this case (i.e., lacking the proper gravitas), because I never felt even a fraction of that discomfort for the duration of his 120+ minute film...that’s a problem, isn’t it? Topical almost to a fault (”…for America to achieve its [stammer] greatness…again…”), why bother setting this in the past if these issues are still very prevalent today?
*I realize after re-reading my capsule that I come down on this much harder than my mildly-positive three-star rating might indicate. I did, in fact, enjoy the film, but it ended up being one of those cases where my nitpicks were much easier to verbalize than my praises—which can mostly be deflected to superficial pleasures (it was funny, it was engaging, it was fluid, etc.)—and so my review reads a bit more harsh than intended.