You know you’re in for a wild ride when a movie’s called BlacKkKlansman.
As one might glean from the title, BlacKkKlansman follows a black cop who infiltrates the local branch of the Ku Klux Klan – with the help of a white officer for face-to-face meets.
It might seem too ridiculous to be true, but this story is based on the real-life account of Colorado Springs policeman Ron Stallworth.
The film is directed by critically acclaimed helmer Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X), who is well known for his politically and racially charged work.
Lee treads a fine line between comedy and drama and it can sometimes seem that the film is too funny for such heavy issues.
BlacKkKlansman doesn’t walk the line as successfully as Do the Right Thing, for example. It’s hard to chuckle when characters are spewing such vitriolic hatred at all manner of people.
However, the film really does make you think.
Both leads – Ron (John David Washington, son of Denzel) and Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver, Star Wars) – have to endure torrents of abuse, in person and over the phone, attacking their cultures.
Ron is African-American and Flip is Jewish – two cultures despised by the Ku Klux Klan.
The film also explores the black liberation front, with Black Panther members and student leaders preaching their refusal to be oppressed.
What Lee does achieve successfully in his film is the acknowledgement that the extremes on both sides – the Klan and the Panthers – are dangerous and need to be kept in check.
Ron is the figure in the middle – he desperately wants to achieve equality and pride for African-Americans, but he doesn’t want to see people armed and marching in the streets.
The film becomes increasingly harder to laugh at as it progresses.
One scene, inter-cut with a Klan initiation ritual, sees an elderly black man recounting a story of his friend who was brutally murdered in the street after being charged with a crime.
The film closes with footage from neo-Nazi marches in Charlottesville, Virginia last year and president Trump’s disappointing response to them.