by Derek Deskins
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Nov 9, 2018

Spike Lee doesn't make movies for me. Which isn't to say that I don't enjoy his work, it's just that as an upper-middle-class white boy from the suburbs whose first exposure to New York City was a choir trip primarily focused on seeing Broadway musicals, I don't think that I'd describe myself as his target demographic. But that's what makes Lee's work so incomparable, the unabashed strength of his voice that powers through to say exactly what he wants without an urge to kowtow to the musings of an executive eyeballing box office predictions. In "BlacKkKlansman," Spike Lee crafts a masterclass in tonal balance and messaging excellence with inarguable power; all with a freshness that recalls his earlier and best work.

Smack dab in the middle of the civil rights movement of the 1970s, Ron Stallworth comes to Colorado Springs as their first black officer. Initially, he is thrown into the records room, where he faces a slew of racial bigotry and a struggle to feel as if he is contributing anything of note, so he requests to be moved out into the field as an undercover detective. Now as a part of the intelligence division, he stumbles upon an ad to join the Ku Klux Klan. With a handful of hubris, he calls the number and "white Ron Stallworth" is born. With the ball already rolling, a begrudging Flip Zimmerman joins the operation to infiltrate and delegitimize the hate group.

There is a version of "BlacKkKlansman" in which it is more of a historic retelling, where the message is muted and the history becomes the primary motivator. Luckily, this is a Spike Lee joint, so it is so much more than just a piece of history. Lee doesn't forcefully funnel the multitude of parallels to our current climate of the Trump era down our throats but rather sprinkles them throughout to add weight to the story that he is telling. The name "Spike Lee" isn't always synonymous with subtlety (this is the guy that made "Bamboozled" after all) but in "BlacKkKlansman" he finds a balance that exceeds even his greatest work.

Even while he is juggling the story's historical nature, modern connections, and underlying message, he never stops entertaining. Lee isn't afraid to revel in the humor when it's necessary, and his cast, with lead John David Washington feeling like the ideal actor for Lee's work, handles the tonal tightrope walk with aplomb. "BlacKkKlansman" is an entertaining and enlightening film from front to back, but in its final moments, Lee reveals the differentiator of a good and great filmmaker. He has allowed you to find humor in the hatred for nearly two hours but knows that to leave it at that is irresponsible. He grounds Stallworth's story in our own reality, reminding us that things haven't changed as much as we would like to believe. You leave the movie in a state of anger and despondency that the subject deserves without robbing the film of its lighter moments and generally enjoyable nature.

While there is a multitude of reasons to own "BlacKkKlansman" on Blu-ray, the extras in this release aren't among them. It comes bearing no more than a fairly standard five-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and a glorified music video. It is extremely disappointing, as the nature of the film itself is poised to at least have some more interviews with the real-life subjects or something akin to a historical documentary. Selfishly, I hoped for a commentary track from Lee as well, but alas it was not to be. "BlacKkKlansman" is a majestic piece of filmmaking from one of our greatest living filmmakers, and is necessary to see for its entertainment value as much as its relevance, but this Blu-ray release leaves plenty to be desired.

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD


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