Spike Lee never really went away, but his recent output did not feel like the Fort Greene, 40 Acres and a Mule Spike of old. Sure, artists change and develop, but Spike seems to have emerged out of NYU already formed, already sure of himself, as he brought to the screen Afrocentric fare wrapped in socio-political discourse. BlacKkKlansman, his latest joint, is the real thing: Spike on top of his game, even with the excesses of old. Not a copy of his former art, but a textbook chapter on how to apply lessons from the past to a new public in order to empower them for a new fight. Make no mistake about it: this might be a story from the 1970’s, but this movie is all about Trump’s America, and the director makes no bones about it. Risking the very fact that the film could be dated years from now, this is the strongest indictment of the Trump administration to come out of Hollywood to date. The director has not lost his edge, in fact, his satiric vein might just be stronger than ever, and his anger over the current state of events boils over.
Heading a cast, ripe with Academy Award potential is John David Washington as Ron Stallworth, Colorado Spring's first African American cop, entering into a force replete with racial antagonism. Washington, with his "fro" looks like a figure straight out of the 1970's blaxploitation films that the movie quotes, as he builds a righteous persona for his character. Adam Driver, his doppelgänger in the sting operation, is Flip Zimmerman, a Jewish American detective who learns much about how he is perceived by others. The rest of the cast shines. Laura Harrier plays Patrice Dumas, an Angela Davis-type activist who Stallworth falls in love with. Topher Grace plays David Duke, the Klan's Grand Wizard, in a three-piece suit, as if he were running a business empire, and not the "invisible empire." Jasper Pääkkönen, as Felix, a dangerous member of the Klan chapter, is one of the scariest movie villains in quite a while. His performance is memorable and chilling. His wife, played by Ashlie Atkinson, is a monster who relishes the day when blacks will be eliminated by deadly force.