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'BlackkKlansman' - too good to be true

Published:Sunday | September 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
The film’s director, Spike Lee.
John David Washington as a private investigator in the film ‘BlacKkKlansman’.

Movies bring in audiences in different ways. Some have an influential director with a distinct and striking style. Some have a leading role played by a name that inspires absolute credulity. Others have a premise so intriguing, so incredible, and so impossible that it defies the mind to believe it's a true story.

BlackkKlansman hits all three of those marks. It's directed by the wildly creative Spike Lee, stars son of the legendary Denzel Washington John David Washington, and is based on the true story of how a black police officer infiltrated the most racist organisation in America - the Klu Klux Klan (KKK).

Immediately, BlackkKlansman keys you into what kind of movie you're about to watch. Ron Stallworth, played by John David Washington, is no ordinary recruit. He's the first black cop to join the Colorado Springs police department in the 1970s. While most people might play it safe, Ron decides that his first real assignment ought to be a phone call to the KKK, where he signs up to be their newest member.

What follows is a film that is equal parts absurd and harrowingly real. It has moments when it leans into its fantastic story, presenting the characters as broad and caricaturistic. Then, there are times when the film has gripping dialogue that dives deep into real issues. The cast manages both expertly, with the standouts being Adam Driver; Ron's partner Flip Zimmerman, who's forced to play Ron Stallworth when he needs to show his face; and Laura Harrier as Patrice Dumas, the student activist who indirectly fans the flames of his righteous crusade. Their characters, and more important, their performances, help ground the film when it delves a little too heavily into the absurd.

BlackkKlansman is a film that has a lot going for it, but also a lot to live up to. It's incredible that it's able to feel as balanced as it does, which makes it easier to manage when it feels a little on the nose with its message. Then again, perhaps the film doesn't have any interest in subtlety. Its true purpose is to say what it has to say loudly, with striking visuals that hit you right in the pit of your stomach.

Rating: Big-Screen watch