If you’ve been pining for the return of the fiery, political Spike Lee of Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, good news: BlacKkKlansman is the director working at his electrifying best. Maybe the optimism of the Obama era robbed him of some of that righteous fury (which would be one explanation for his limp Oldboy remake), or maybe middle age mellowed him; either way, Trump’s America—Charlottesville, Black Lives Matter and everything else—has brought the old mojo flooding back. Veering from a blaxploitation spoof to an undercover thriller and ending with a no-punches-pulled real-life coda, BlacKkKlansman is riotously fun one minute, savagely biting the next.
The story, as the opening credits declare, is based on some “fo’ real, fo’ real sh*t”—the kind that’s hard to believe actually happened in early ’70s Colorado, yet it’s all true. Black police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, son of Denzel) joins the local force, where he’s warned that he’ll have to “take a lot of guff.” Sure enough, the guff comes thick and fast as he’s exiled to the storage room and harassed by a racist colleague.
Spotting an ad for the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and taking the initiative, Ron phones the “Organization” (as they vaguely describe themselves), clears his throat and claims to be a vitriolic white supremacist, thus setting in motion the most unlikely undercover operation in law-enforcement history. His first thrill of contact with the enemy is only slightly diminished by