COMIC DRAMA; 2hr 15min
STARRING: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace
Undercover brothers: Driver (left) and Washington
With the true-life enterprise of rookie African-American undercover detective Ron Stallworth (Washington), director Spike Lee has a crazy gift that gives and gives to a moving, sobering end.
The story goes like this: in 1979, after spotting a Ku Klux Klan advert in his local Colorado Springs newspaper, the impulsive Stallworth responds with a phone call, expressing interest in “the
organisation” with a tirade of racist expletives. What follows has to be one of the most outrageous stings in police history. With the help of a fellow officer (imagined here by Driver as
enviably chill—and Jewish) posing as Stallwood in face-to-face meetings and the actual Stallwood schmoozing by phone, the KKK is doubly infiltrated. It will stay that way for a decisive nine
This isn’t a tale you mess with too much; even telling it straight is bound to be twisted. Irrespective of whatever storytelling liberties he takes, Lee, being Lee, is as alert to high-temp froth as he is to its twisted undertow. (Incredibly, during a visit to Colorado Springs by Klan Grand Wizard David Duke [Grace, deceptively mild], Stallwood, who by this point has chatted with him undercover several times by phone, is assigned as his bodyguard.) It’s in this layering of the ridiculous with the repugnant that Lee’s impassioned, exuberant delivery is most impactful. The Klan members are essentially a sad and tacky rabble. But the acrid reek of their hatred is the taste you take away.