Excruciatingly painful to watch, I could never recommend anyone pay to see this movie. But, you say, TMJ likes true stories. Ordinarily that is the case, although Spike Lee takes the usual liberties. (For those interested, see this History vs Hollywood link.) In this movie, you have to spend to spend two hours and fifteen minutes with some of the most vile people imaginable spewing their racist filth. So, how is this billed as a comedy, drama? Mr. Lee attempts comedy by making the KKK characters virtual caricatures. It doesn’t work.
Given the recent incidents in Charlottesville, I agree that this is an important message. However, most civilized folks learned early in life that Nazis and the KKK are bad. This movie is filmed in a dark fuzzy fashion, much like watching pre-HD TV. While I am sure that Mr. Lee would say this is art to emulate the look of the 1970’s, I still am not a fan. Because this movie does not fit my rating system, I will not rate it. It has a 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating, but if you are looking for fun, look elsewhere.
In 1979, Colorado Springs hires its first black police officer, Ron Stallworth. Assigned to clerical duties, he offers to work undercover as he has traits none of the others possess. When Stokely Carmichael comes to town, Stallworth is to determine if Carmichael is there to “stir up the blacks.” Satisfied with his report, the chief puts him in the Intelligence Division. There, he sees an ad advertising the KKK. Stallworth receives a call from one of the local leaders and pretends to be a white racist. He gets an invite to a meeting. Obviously, he can’t go. Another detective, Flip Zimmerman, takes his place. The infiltration begins.
John David Washington, Denzel’s son, plays Ron Stallworth. He does a fine job being the “Jackie Robinson” of the Colorado Springs PD. Adam Driver is Flip Zimmerman and quite believable as an undercover officer. Laura Harrier is the black activist-girlfriend of Stallworth. Her role would have been even better if she actually existed. Topher Grace is getting some acclaim as David Duke but I picture Duke as more of a firebrand. What do I know? Perhaps the most impressive actor in the whole movie was Harry Belafonte as an elderly black man who watched a mentally challenged young black being tortured for a crime he didn’t commit.
For those of you with a political bent, Spike Lee makes his point that Trump and Charlottesville have a connection. Of course, this has nothing to do with the 1979 Stallworth story. It does show that the KKK is like the strongest of weeds. No matter how much Roundup (pun intended) is used, it seems unable to be eradicated. This is a reminder, no different than the reminders of the Holocaust. Racism still exists. I just prefer not to listen to their hatred.
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