Only Spike Lee could have made BlacKkKlansman

A film as brazenly, bluntly, unapologetically entertaining as BlacKkKlansman could only be made by a filmmaker as brazen, blunt, and unapologetic as Lee

Director Spike Lee talks to John David Washington, who stars as Detective Ron Stallworth BlacKkKlansman
(Image credit: BlacKkKlansman/Focus Features)

There's a lot going on in BlacKkKlansman, the latest film from legendary director Spike Lee. It starts with Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard (Alec Baldwin) filming a white supremacist PSA, sputtering like a rabid dog between takes and spewing racist slander. It ends with scenes from the real-life 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. And in between, it sandwiches a wild true crime story that comes to life as a blaxploitation film.

The movie, which hits theaters Friday, is based on the story of black Colorado Springs detective Ron Stallworth, who in 1978 began an investigation into local Ku Klux Klan activity that ended with the chapter's dismantling. But Lee shapes his adaptation with a certain frenetic energy, eschewing traditional historical tics and instead leapfrogging across genres from comedy to police procedural, historical biopic to historical atrocity. He invokes blaxploitation — a 1970s filmmaking movement centered on black heroes battling emblems of white supremacy in black communities — as a way to underwrite the tension of the subject matter. The effect of his genre-swapping is as dizzying as it is immensely satisfying.

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