This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Ryan Hodes’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"You think you’re hot shit... but really you’re just a cold fart".
I'm kind of torn on this film. I'll address the obvious first; that ending. Simple, powerful, moving footage, yes. The transition from movie to real-world footage is frightening, but what's the point? To show us that white supremacists are shitty, hate-mongering idiots? Well, yeah, no shit. To tell us that if we don't stand the fuck up, history is doomed to repeat itself? To show us that our president is no better than a KKK member? Now that's a much more interesting idea, but goddamn, Spike Lee just beat us over the head with these parallels from the getgo of the film. I mean, even Trump’s campaign slogans are used in the white supremacist rhetoric (America first, take America back, etc.). The ending makes the message more real, more full of rage, more in-your-face.
But I just don't know what to make of it. I want to love it; I want to be stunned in silence like the rest of my theater. I was shocked when the credits rolled, but more just by the disturbing nature of the footage. But to me, the ending came across as almost pandering and exploitative to the audience.
For a movie about the KKK and how its philosophies are just as prevalent today as ever, BlacKkKlansman is an exceptionally safe movie. There is a line at the beginning of the film, about how we have to acknowledge that racists can be just as smart/organized in order to understand how racism is still so prevalent. I really loved that line. Yet every white supremacist character in the film is a fucking moron! They're all bigoted buffoons who say ridiculous shit that everyone in the audience is obviously going to laugh off. BlacKkKlansman plays to what the audience already thinks, and doesn't really say anything new. I hate to say it's preaching to the choir, but it really is.
I feel a lot like Ron Stallworth after listening to Kwame Ture at the beginning of the film. He agrees with Kwame's stance, but he certainly doesn't stand for the rhetoric Kwame uses. I feel what Spike Lee is going for, and I agree that the same hate that fueled the KKK is having a significant and dangerous influence on today's society. But do I agree with the way he went about saying it? Fuck no.
On the other hand, maybe that's just what people need to see to wake up. While I might feel that the social commentary (even in the "movie-portion") was too on-the-nose, maybe it will help some people see the hypocrisy of their ways.
It feels kinda unnecessary to talk about much else in BlacKkKlansman, but there are a few things I want to highlight beyond the obvious social issues the film tries to tackle. John David Washington is fan-damn-tastic and hilarious as Ron Stallworth. The film itself has excellent situational humor, and some very funny lines. Tension holds surprisingly well during the entire David Duke/bomb scene, and the final phone call between Ron and David Duke is fucking hilarious. A couple things I didn't like: Adam Driver's character doesn't really have much development or depth over the course of the movie, so his great performance is somewhat wasted. The romance is underdeveloped, too, but what else is new?
It's going to take some time for me to form a full opinion on BlacKkKlansman; I really don't know what to make of it yet. All I can say is that for a movie that's so clearly supposed to be about modern-day society, it feels surprisingly disconnected.