BlacKkKlansman (2018): ‘Racism Today’ – A Film Review



So, on the surface, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is an impassioned film about racism and black oppression – and it is, unmistakably. From the director that brought us Malcolm X and Bamboozled, this is unsurprising. But underneath this very apparent issue, BlacKkKlansman is based upon a true story. Ron Stallworth was a real black cop who wrote about an undercover mission he went on that involved the KKK. Despite any changes that Spike Lee has made or the bias he may place in the film, there will always be that truth at heart of the film.


Racism Today

So the elephant in the room is that this film deals with racism through the ages and the struggles of Black people with the threat the Klu Klux Klan. Spike Lee’s agenda is very apparent and emotionally, this argument is well kept. The film sometimes over relies on The Birth of a Nation, which is a key moment in Cinema history, of a Hollywood film that depicts the KKK as heroes. Some early moments in BlacKkKlansman almost feel caricatured and cheesy, but might be an unbelievable reality. This is hard to tell since the film has its clear stance. The film also functions as a bit of a tribute to Blaxploitation films of the 1970s, which adds a light hearted and entertaining touch to the film’s events but might distract from that realism. Again, are we just not used to seeing so extremely racist and hate driven characters, to the point that think that they could say these things?


And the Story..

John David Washington (Ron Stallworth) really holds the film together well, delivering a careful performance throughout, which somehow entertains the silly as well as serious aspects of the film. Surprisingly, Adam Driver (Flip Zimmerman) keeps a reserved approach to his performance which perfectly supports the cast without being distracting. This serves the film’s purpose really well, as the film shines most of all when it’s trying an emotional tug and giving well written speeches as a comment on racism, and not the life’s of the characters. Again, there are moments where it distracts from the reality but it works none-the-less. All the while the most shocking elements would be when the Blaxploitation elements shy away and the real elements come in.



As a film the story is interesting and somewhat there but not there. There are interesting relationships between the characters but it’s all second purpose. Despite the times when Spike Lee wants to make reference to other modes of story telling The Birth of a Nation or Blaxploitation Cinema, the films real power is almost documentary. Ron Stallworth was real, there are people that think and act like that. BlacKkKlansman may be set in the 1970s and even the so often referenced The Birth of a Nation, which came out in 1915 is in the past; but this is all current. The film ends with footage from the 2017 Unite the Right Rally, where people died and largely the American government appeared to support white supremacy. Racism – frighteningly – seems to still be a huge issue.



Ron Stallworth is the first black cop in Colorado Springs and quickly learns of the Klu Klux Klan operating locally and decides to infiltrate them.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Bamboozled (d. Spike Lee USA 2000)

BlacKkKlansman (d. Spike Lee USA 2018)

Malcolm X (d. Spike Lee USA/Japan 1992)

The Birth of a Nation (d. D. W. Griffith USA 1915)


Further Reading

Official Site

Interview with Spike Lee at Cannes

Interview with Spike Lee

Interview with John David Washington

BlacKkKlansman vs The Birth of a Nation

BlacKkKlansman as Blaxploitation


Return of Blaxploitation?


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Den of Thieves (2018): ‘Emotion and Plot’ – A Film Review

Black Panther (2018): ‘Marvel’s Black Superhero Film’ – A Film Review


This was an analytical review of….


BlacKkKlansman (d. Spike Lee USA 2018)


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