We had a long day yesterday. My friend and I were supposed to see Venom at Macquarie Centre but the car park was a nightmare. Getting a spot was impossible and Nick said he felt ‘like a rat in a maze’. We didn’t miss anything as Venom is a crap movie, and I was against seeing it in the first place. Deciding to leave the Centre, we checked out the other movies in different locations and were surprised to see Spike Lee’s Klansman still playing in Dendy Newtown. Klansman was one of three movies on my August watchlist, aside from Crazy Rich and Mission Impossible. Released on 16 August, a combination of bad cards and decisions prevented me from seeing this joint. I was happy to finally get a glimpse yesterday.
I was surprised that the cinema was still half full though this movie had been playing for six weeks. That was a good omen. This was my first Spike film at the cinema and it was a romp. From Alec Baldwin’s hilarious monologue at the outset, patrons had a lot of fun. This is not to detract it from the pressing issues that the film touches. Indeed, the Rotten Tomatoes consensus reveals that klansman brings out Lee’s ‘hardest hitting work in decades’. The humour throughout the film was a departure from Lee’s body of work, something my friend noted. John Washington, who stars as undercover cop Ron Stallworth, provides a Denzel worthy performance. He has strong support with Adam Driver as his Jewish twin, Topher Grace as KKK head David Duke, and Laura Harrier as Ron’s love interest.
Aside from being a political commentary on race relations, the film is likewise a time machine, bringing us back to the 60s: the baggy clothes, retro landlines, Beetles, and Afro hairstyles. O.J. Simpson was still a great American hero and even the soundtrack was Motown. Nick said that only a black director could pull off such a portrait of racial tension in the US. Being black gives him a unique lens. I guess sitting court side to all those Knicks scuffles doesn’t hurt either. Spike did a masterful job in constructing a 60s universe, telling a highly original plot, dissecting race relations, and sprinkling a surfeit of humour. Even my pal remarked that it was wittier than he’d expected.
Ron Stallworth is a likeable cop. Though his uniform gets a bad rap, he does his precinct proud. The prejudice against blacks is everywhere, and exists even among blacks themselves. By moving to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan, he has done a tremendous service to America. Even without the requisite support, he mounts a personal crusade against racism and makes a mockery out of white supremacists in the process. My buddy saw the length of the film as a parody, leading to an explosive climax and serious ending. The ending, he said, was more in line with Spike’s Lee’s joints. Even among the cops themselves, the racial divide is palpable. Ron is discriminates against from the moment he steps foot at Colorado Springs. While he manages to make friends, he is still assigned to rot in intelligence, where he phones and responds to a klan ad. The rest, as they say, is black power history.
Nick also noted that the events depicted in the production are still very much around today. The hatred, the bigotry, the intolerance, and racial abuse by the police force, are common scripts to this day. There was a scene in the movie where Ron tackles a plump white woman as he tried to flee. Once the cops arrived, she accused him of trying to rape her. The five ohs then immediately set upon Stallworth. It stayed that way until Flip (Adam Driver) arrived and ended the brutality. As they say, ‘Only in America’.
The film has earned universal acclaim, holding a 95 percent certified fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. I say this is praise well earned, a very watchable film indeed. While not making a big enough splash at the box office, I conclude that it is still a must see for racial tensions in the US. My friend was finally able to see all 3, ranking klansman behind crazy rich and MI. Personally, I would say that Klansman is just a notch lower than crazy Rich. I’ve got two out of three from my watch list, and both were impressive. Not bad at all.