At the beginning of Spike Lee’s new film “BlacKkKlansman” we’re hit with a rabid blue and white promo from a white racist political figure (Alec Baldwin, of course) in an obvious Trumpish tone, ranting on and on.

Alec stutters and slobbers as if he were Trump writing a tweet from his bedside. Yes, there is a message here.

Then we’re hit with multiple scenes from D.W. Griffith’s classic silent “Birth of a Nation.” That sets a tone in full volume, and we shouldn’t be surprised to find that we’re about to experience the best Spike Lee movie since “Do The Right Thing,” with gobs of “Malcolm X” thrown in.

It’s clear that Spike is using this amazing true story to send us a wake-up call that’s more like a trash can full of ice cold water. Prepare yourself for the fun and brace yourself for the explosive ending.

Colorado Springs, 1972.

In October of that year, Ron Stallworth (A terrific John David Washington, the son of Denzel Washington) a bright and ambitious young black man decides he wants to be a cop. Good timing. The boys in charge are looking for just such a guy to fill a spot. After an extensive interview, “You gotta be tough,” he’s warned. “You’ll be the Jackie Robinson of the department.”


Thus he becomes the first black cop in Colorado, surrounded by confused and curious but generally friendly white guys, except for one. There’s always one.

Despite his warm acceptance, Ron is put in what appears to be the police department’s “back of the bus,” the records room in the basement.

But this overqualified, college-educated young cop talks himself onto the intelligence squad, where his eager superiors send him to infiltrate the new virulent Black Students Movement, while wearing a wire and hoping he will uncover trouble.

While failing to find anything resembling trouble, Ron falls for the students’ leader Patrice (a terrific and compelling Laura Harrier looking for all the world like Angela Davis).

Here’s where everything changes. While scanning material on the Black Student’s group and romancing Laura, Ron sees a recruiting ad for the Ku Klux Klan that sparks his imagination. Could a full out African-American join the Klan?

He sounds perfectly white on the phone, but to show up for his robe and hood fitting? What then? Rod clearly needs a stand-in as the “all white” Ron Washington.


Ron, in the film, recruits Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) his 6-foot-3 new cop friend, a non-religious Jew, to become his avatar.

FYI the script is based on Washington’s book, but Spike and associates admit to “creative changes.” “Zimmerman” it seems, was really a non-Jew named Claude, but apparently the writers changed it to “underline themes of ‘passing’ and ‘duality.'” Okay.

(John Wenzel’s article in the Denver Post (July 30, 2018) about the film fills in all the true details, including Washington’s comments on how it all really went down. It makes for interesting reading.)

Folks on the radical Right will scream “exaggeration” with Spike’s casting of local Klansmen, played as a pack of slobbering rednecks, dropouts and misfits, who drink cheap beer, scratch their bellies and wave handguns at rallies. All that’s missing are the iconic red baseball caps.

Exaggeration? It’s clear that Spike is mirroring what he saw of the faithful from Trump rallies and letting you decide.

While we’re laughing, Spike jolts us awake. The Klan has a bomb, a really big one, and they’ve given it to the sad sack wife of one of their own to plant it. She’s as dumb as her husband. Housewife holds bomb; what could go wrong? Everything.


Kwame Ture, born Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins) is here, along with the real Harry Belafonte as Jerome Turner, telling black students the tale of the lynching of a teenager, and a chilling David Duke (Topher Grace) is laced in.

There’s a Spike here for everyone, the faithful loyalists, the new and old fans, and the hungry resisters. And despite some of the usual Hollywood fudging, it’s a terrific and compelling film.

Washington and Driver as principal players risking lives and careers are wonderful.

Writers Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott with notes from Stallworth joined Spike in the scripting, and not a word is wasted.

The film begins with a sinister whisper and ends with a scream. The White Nationalism marches and riots on Charlottesville on Aug. 12 of last year are shattering when seen on full screen. It’s Nuremberg with grits and guns on the side. Spike wants you to wake up. Will you?

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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