Plot: Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) has become the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, but he has no intentions of being a token hire and plans to make an impact on the force. He is assigned to observe a public appearance by activist Kwame Ture, with the instructions to watch for militant elements, but he winds up pining over of the event’s organizers, Patrice (Laura Harrier). After the assignment, he keeps in touch with Patrice, but withholds his profession, as she would likely cut him off if she knew he was an officer. Soon after, Ron initiates a phone call to the Ku Klux Klan and manages to line up a meeting with some Klan officials, but while his voice concealed his race, if he shows up, that game is over quick. So while Ron will continue the telephone contacts, Detective Zimmerman (Adam Driver) will handle the in person meetings, but can this improbable investigation ever work?
Entertainment Value: While BlacKkKlansman is based on Ron Stallworth’s real life investigation of the Ku Klux Klan, to call this a loose adaptation would be a vast understatement. Spike Lee uses the basic premise of Stallworth’s real investigation, which is a wild premise, but drops most of the actual events and aims for an absurd, over the top comic experience. I wouldn’t mind this, but Lee spins a 180 at the finale and lets his obsession with Donald Trump shine through, so this shift is unearned and seems out of place. I do wish more of the real story was involved, as the actual events are much more interesting, but BlacKkKlansman offers a more comedic, kinetic take, so there is still entertainment value here. But if you want an accurate biopic on Stallworth, this isn’t that. The movie’s sense of humor is over the top, but it works, as both the script and the performances embrace that approach, which leads to some hilarious moments, though the humor is rather broad in most scenes. I’m sure some will find it offensive, but it is so over the top, it is hard to see anyone being all that put off. I think the Trump driven epilogue would have made more sense in a serious, accurate take on Stallworth’s story, but it is what it is. I didn’t go into BlacKkKlansman expecting an absurd comedy, but it is a fun ride and earns a recommendation.
The cast here seems to have fun with the absurd approach, yielding some fun to watch, over the top performances. While BlacKkKlansman is more of an ensemble piece, John David Washington has the central role and he is quite good here, handling the comedic elements well, even in the more offbeat sequences. The nature of the material doesn’t allow for much depth or subtle touches in his performance, but Washington does all he can with the role, I think. Adam Driver has the other prominent role and he is given a little more dramatic material to work with, but the movie shies away from some of the character’s potential depth. Driver and Washington have good chemistry as well, so their scenes together are fun to watch. Topher Grace plays David Duke like an SNL skit, which makes sense given the film’s absurd tone and while the performance is ham handed, it fits with the material. The cast also includes Robert John Burke, Alec Baldwin, Laura Harrier, and Nicholas Turturro.