The Reel Review
This Spike Lee film is loosely based on Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir about being the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department in the 1970s, where he ended up working with a white colleague to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan, and oddly enough, even met its national leader, David Duke, as Duke was trying to whitewash his image for an attempted (and failed) career in mainstream politics.
While the primary story is a strange, somewhat clumsy one that starts off slowly and deviates from what really happened, where Lee is most impactful is in spotlighting the racial hatred and injustices beneath its veneer, ultimately creating a provocative and thought-provoking film. John David Washington (son of Oscar-winner Denzel), Adam Driver and Laura Harrier (Spider-Man: Homecoming) deliver solid performances and the film effectively incorporates the mood of the era into some clever plot twists, even highlighting the “Make America Great Again” jingoism as part of the white supremacist message.
Its epilogue, about the deadly August 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a powerful and uncomfortable reminder of the presence of racism in American society, but Lee’s message, about the importance of working both outside and within the system to bring about change, remains hopeful.