Star – John David Washington
My Rating ****
Genre – Comedy
Run Time – 2 Hr 15 Minutes.
Certificate – 18
Country – U.S.A
Oscars – 1 win & 5 nominations
Awards – 41 wins 189 Nominations
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So, as the title hints at, here the unlikely true story of a black detective who went undercover to infiltrate the KKK in 1950s racist America. Well it’s almost true. Obviously a black man would rather stand out a Klan meeting – unless they were under the hood, of course. But it did happen and Ron Stallworth was that brave man, an irresistible tale to tell for director Spike Lee, his original screenplay finally delivering him his first Oscar.
The real Ron Stallworth had originally wanted Denzel Washington to play him, the Oscar winning actor doing 4 Spike Lee films previously, but was ecstatic to find out Denzel’s acting son John David Washington got the role. Because of the film subject matter of racism Spike dedicated it to Heather Heyer, the woman mowed down by a redneck car at the racist march in America recently.
With a box office take of $89 million, this is Spike Lee’s second most successful film after Inside Man (2006).Spike only makes the films he wants to. I like that.
• John David Washington as Detective Ron Stallworth
• Adam Driver as Detective Philip “Flip” Zimmerman
• Laura Harrier as Patrice Dumas
• Topher Grace as David Duke
• Jasper Pääkkönen as Felix Kendrickson
• Ryan Eggold as Walter Breachway
• Paul Walter Hauser as Ivanhoe
• Ashlie Atkinson as Connie Kendrickson
• Corey Hawkins as Kwame Ture
• Michael Buscemi as Jimmy Creek
• Ken Garito as Sergeant Trapp
• Robert John Burke as Chief Bridges
• Fred Weller as Patrolman Andy Landers
• Nicholas Turturro as Walker
• Harry Belafonte as Jerome Turner
• Alec Baldwin as Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard
• Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Mr. Turrentine
• Damaris Lewis as Odetta
College graduate Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) wants to make a difference in life to honor his parents so applies to be Colorado Springs first black police officer. Accepted, he cuts his teeth on the desk doing some filling and stuff. But it’s not enough for him so asks his chief if he can go undercover. With a lot of black crime and just one police officer it’s tempting for Chief Bridges (Robert John Burgess) to use him.
When charismatic black rights speaker Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) comes to town it’s the chance for Stallworth to prove himself undercover, doing a great job by getting some good audio of the rebel rousers speech and the mood in the room. To go deeper he also hits on cute black protester Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a black college civil rights leader, access to Ture.
Now ‘Detective Stallworth’, to stimulate a new case he decides to apply to a personal in the local press that’s clearly a covert advert for the local KKK, maybe get some intelligence on them. He strikes up a conversation with the guy on the other end of the phone and before you know it a meet is agreed in local redneck bar to see if he can join, the KKK man oblivious he is a black policeman, of course. With a plan in mind Stallworth approaches his superior officer, Sergeant Trapp (Ken Garito), with an idea muted that fellow undercover officer Philip “Flip” Zimmerman (Adam Driver) be the white version of Stallworth and meet these guys. It’s bizarrely signed off at the top and away they go.
Stallworth builds the rapport over the phone and Zimmerman on the ground, meeting the KKK guys. Local Klan leader Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold) quickly bonds with Zimmerman/Stallworth and soon moving up the popularity ranks in the Klan, enough so for a potential meet with David Duke (Topher Grace), the then head of the KKK. One Klan man (Paul Walter Hauser) does not trust him and his constant questions though and begins to undermine white Stallworth. But when Zimmerman and Stallworth learn the target of a potential attack, minds are focused and things get serious.
David Duke: ‘America first!’
Klansmen: America first. America first…!
Black Waiter: ‘Ain’t this a bitch. If I would have known this was a Klan meeting, I wouldn’t have taken this mother**king gig. Goddamn…’
Of course this ends up a great opportunity for Spike to have a right good go at Trump America. Can you blame him? But it doesn’t take from what is an enjoyable film from one of my favorite directors. Wasn’t quite sure on the casting as Adam Driver and John David Washington don’t quite work up an on screen dynamic but plenty of stereotype thick white men to please the black audience.
Well written but nothing special there either and more comedy than drama. Lee makes his points about race hit home but not without cliché. He does deliver positive black role models to a country that really needs them right now and a powerful Motown soundtrack cheers that dynamic on.
I think people of all races gave this film a chance as they could not believe the scenario of a black guy being undercover in the KKK. But, of course, he is not and where the film slightly falls down and all those potential prosthetic jokes lost. But you know what I like it and just scrape’s the fourth star for its boldness for me and a story that needed to be told. Yes it did take liberties with the truth to embarrass the white man some more but that mechanism purely to make a drama out of the story and tell that tale.
Imdb.com 7.5/10.0 – (157,234votes)
Rottentomatos.com –96% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 83% critic’s approval