BlacKkKlansman (2018)
A review by Shlomoh Sherman
August 13, 2018

Read about BlacKkKlansman
On the Internet Movie Data Base

BlacKkKlansman (2018)
Director: Spike Lee
Writers: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee, Ron Stallworth [based on his the autobiographical book]
Stars: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier |
Plot Summary: Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan and became the head of the local chapter.
Plot Keywords: ku klux klan - undercover cop - race relations - racism - integration
Taglines: Infiltrate Hate.
Genres: Biography - Comedy - Crime - Drama
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): Rated R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references
Parents Guide: See below
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: August 10, 2018 (USA)
Also Known As: Black Klansman
Filming Locations: Ossining, New York, USA
Box Office:
Budget:$15,000,000 (estimated)
Company Credits:
Production Co: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Blumhouse Productions, Legendary Entertainment
Runtime: 2h 15min
Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos
Awards and nominations: see below


In the opening credits, Spike Lee lets the audience know that this movie is based upon a real life set of events. To quote Spike, "Dis joint is based upon some fo' real, fo' real shit!" To quote a popular axiom, YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS KIND OF SHIT UP!

Back in the early 1970s, the town of Colorado Springs began to integrate its police force. One of the first black officers hired was Ron Stallworth, a Colorado police officer. Stallworth was informed by the police recruiter that probably every police force in the country has its share of racist cops. When asked what he would do if one of his fellow officers called him "nigger", Stallworth answered, "Well I'd have to turn the other cheek."

Stallworth is a highly educated man with an alpha personality who can handle himself in rough situations but his talents are initially wasted when he is given a desk job. After a short while, he complains to his commanding officer that he joined the force to work out on the streets with the neighnorhood community, not to push papers. His sergeant informs him that as a rookie, he will have to work his way up to become a patrolman.

Shortly thereafter, the black fraternity of a local college is hosting Kwame Ture [Stokely Carmichael] as a speaker to inspire the students to make themselves part of the newly emerging Black Power movement. Stallworth's sergeant asks him if he wants to volunteer to attend the meeting as undercover. Stallworth accepts the job eagerly. At the meeting, he meets one of the organizers, Patrice Dumas, to whom he is attracted and with whom he ultimately falls in love. Stallworth reports back to his superiors that the meeting was highly emotionally charged with Carmichael exhorting the students not to put up with the white man's racism and demeaning behavior but that no violence actually was preached.

Not long after, Stallworth reads that the KKK is planning a march and demonstration in Colorado Springs. An idea germanates in his mind so audacious that when he tells his sergeant and his fellow officers about it, they can hardly believe what he is saying. In effect, he plans to become a member of the Ku Klux Klan, the first nonwhite to do so, and thereby infiltrate the organization.

His plan, successfully executed, is to phone the Klan's office and ingratiate himself with the local organizer, praising the work of the Klan and wishing to become a member.

When his superiors asked him how he planned to meet the Klan members in person, obviously being black, Stallworth answered that he would be the avid racist on the phone but that a white policeman would have to pose as him in actual person to person meetings with the Klan members.

Phillip [Flip] Zimmerman, a Jewish police officer, volunteers to act as Stallworth when attending Klan meetings.

I don't wish to reveal more of the story except to say that when he discovers that his girlfriend, Patrice, will be at a students' meeting that the Klan plans to bomb, Stallworth feels that he must warn her and thereby reveal that he is an undercover cop. I will leave it to you to see the movie to find out how that divulgence is resolved.

Stallworth did actually impress the Klan members to the extent that he became the head of the local chapter, even becoming a favorite of David Duke, Grand Wizzard of the Louisiana Klan.

An article in the August 13, 2018 issue of the Los Angeles Times tells that David Duke called Stallworth to say that he was unhappy with how he is portrayed in the movie. Duke told him that he didn't want to be portrayed in a bad light. Duke told Stallworth, "I encouraged people a couple of times to buy your book [upon which the movie is based] and read it." Still, Duke said his recollection of the events differed from how they were told in the book and movie.

David Duke didn’t find out that he was black until 2006, when a reporter called the Klan leader to fact-check Stallworth’s story, according to an August 10 article in the online magazine, SLATE.

The actor, Topher Grace, who plays David Duke, incredibly resembles the real Duke, as can be seen in the side by side photo.

Harry Belafonte has a cameo as Jerome Turner, a judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, appointed by Ronald Reagan, from December 9, 1987 to February 12, 2000. There is a scene in which Turner addresses the Black Students Union, telling them about how white America simply accepted racism and believed the false charges against blacks. Clips from the film, Birth of a Nation, are shown. Turner tells the students that president Woodrow Wilson showed the movie at the White House

After that viewing, Wilson supposedly said, “It’s like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all terribly true.” Until “Gone With the Wind”, “The Birth of a Nation” was the top Hollywood moneymaker. The film is based on the novel and play “The Clansman” (1905) by Southern Baptist minister Thomas Dixon Jr., who is reported to have wept with rage on seeing a stage version of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the most famous of all anti-slavery works. Dixon considered “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” to be a complete lie. “The Clansman” was his answer to it, and the impact of “The Clansman” remains to this day.
It portrays the KKK as the saviors of the white race and probably stoked its resurgence in the 1920's. Another thing is that the people it demonized most were not ordinary blacks, who were considered sub-human, but "mulattoes" (mixed race people) who were portrayed as just evil and conniving. The fear of "miscegenation" was very real then and you can still find pockets of it today in backward parts of the country. -The Washington Post, July 23, 2017

If you do choose to see the movie, be prepared for the verbally brutal racist language that pervades it from beginning to end. Normally, as a comedian, non pollitically correct language doesn't bother me. But the emotionally intense hatred behind the words spoken by the actors had a viscerally toxic affect on me.

The website at has this to comment:
The terrible underside of ... the reality we live in, which is where BlacKkKlansman ends. Terence Blanchard's score wails with Mayfield-like lament over footage of violence at the Charlottesville protests.
However, the Charlottesville footage, as jarring as it is, brings the audience back to reality. There’s a clear conscious decision by filmmakers to use the attacks to show that the past and the present aren’t different at all – not much has changed. [My note: A clip of president Trump announcing that there were good people on both sides doesn't help the situation any.]
The film contains tons of tongue-in-cheek references to our present-day politics. The opening scene monologue from Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard comes off as extreme, but not too far removed from fear-mongering tactics and dialogue spewed by the far-right in 2018. It’s scary until you realize it’s not that much different from things that we hear today.

As in most of my reviews, I include an excerpt from reviewers on the Internet Movie Database. Below is an excerpt from SymbioteLord11's IMDB August 10, 2018 [opening day] review:

Lost potential.
Obviously going into this movie it was going to have a political message. And obviously this message was going to draw some parallels with modern day. But I didn't espect this movie to completely sacrifice its plot in pursuit of this message. This was a similar problem I had with Detroit. However in that film the plot had more of an opportunity to push its message. Blackkklansman doesn't have the same luxury but it acts as if it does. Scene after scene drags not in an attempt to effect the character but the audience watching the film. Also the editing and shot somposition is some of the worst in recent memory.

There are parts of SymbioteLordii's remarks with which I agree but overall I enjoyed the movie and believe it's worth seeing. Although I am not a fan of Spike Lee, I have enjoyed some of his films including GET ON THE BUS, SUMMER OF SAM [both reviewed here on this website], INSIDE MAN, and MALCOLM X.

KUDOS TO John David Washington as Ron Stallworth. Lee wanted Denzel Washington to play the role but it was pointed out to him that Denzel is too old for the part. Consequently it was played by Denzel's talented son, John David.
KUDOS TO Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman, the Jewish policeman who acts as Stallworth at meetings of the Klan. According to the online magazine, Bustle, Flip Zimmerman doesn't exist. That is to say that no one by that name exists as it relates to this story. The name was created for the film because the real name of Stallworth's former partner has never been publicly revealed. In Stallworth's book, he's called "Chuck." However, whatever his name is, he was an integral part of Stallworth's infiltration into the KKK. In the film, Zimmerman is made to say that all his life he has never thought much about his Jewishness but after being subjected to the hatefull antisemitism of the Klan, he will now take an active interest in investigating what being a Jew is all about.
KUDOS TO Alec Baldwin as Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard, an outspoken racist. His 2 or 3 minute intro to the film sets the tone for the story.
KUDOS TO Michael Joseph Buscemi as officer Jimmy Creek; Michael is Steve Buscemi's brother. I don't believe I have ever seen him in another movie but all throughout the film, I kept asking myself, Is that Steve Buscemi?
KUDOS TO Laura Harrier as Patrice Dumas. If the saying, "Black is beautiful" is true, Laura proves it. Watch for her career to go places.
KUDOS TO Corey Hawkins as Kwame Ture [Stokely Carmichael], a role he plays with righteous passion; his filmography includes 6 appearences on the TV series, The Walking Dead
KUDOS TO Topher Grace as David Duke. I hope to see this amazing actor again in the near future. Recently saw him in Mona Lisa Smile, an wonderful film staring Julia Roberts
KUDOS TO Harry Belafonte as Jerome Turner; last seen is Island in the Sun and Odds Against Tomorrow

The real David Duke called Ron Stallworth to express his concern over his "baffoonish, cartoonish idiot" portrayal in the film. Duke also said he respected Spike Lee. After seeing the film he wasn't pleased that the film didn't follow the events of the book. David Duke did not discover that Ron Stallworth is a black man until 2006, when a Miami Herald reporter contacted him for his side of the story.
The film features the late musician Prince singing "Mary, Don't You Weep" over the end credits. This is a previously unreleased live rehearsal recording.
During an interview with Dave Karger at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Topher Grace said that once he got the role and during the filming, he was not allowed to tell anyone that he was playing David Duke.
Spike Lee and his writers have moved the story back 7 years from when it actually took place in 1979 to 1972. This allowed the film to reference both the then trendy blaxploitation movies and the re-election campaign, supposedly supported by the Klan, of President Richard Nixon.
Contrary to popular belief, the real Ron Stallworth never used a "white" voice on the phone, he ironically had to use his real voice or they would have caught him if he slipped out of character. When his white colleagues told him it couldn't work, he asked what made his voice any different from theirs but they never answered.
John David Washington is the son of Denzel Washington, who appeared in four films directed by Spike Lee.
John David Washington made his film debut as a 6-year-old Harlem classroom student in Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992) that featured his dad Denzel Washington and his grandmother Lennis Washington.
Spike directed Denzel Washington (John David Washington's father) in Malcolm X (1992).

Shaft (1971) - Ron and Patrice discuss "Shaft" on a date.
Super Fly (1972) - Ron and Patrice discuss "Super Fly" on a date.
The Birth of a Nation (1915) - The Klan watch "The Birth of a Nation" at one point as Jeremy Turner discusses its racist influence on people.
Gone with the Wind (1939) - Clip shown.

Oh Happy Day Written By Edwin Hawkins Performed By The Edwin Hawkins Singers Courtesy Of Buddah Records / Legacy Recordings By Arrangement With Sony Music Entertainment
Too Late to Turn Back Now Written By Eddie Cornelius Performed By The Cornelius Brothers (as Cornelius Brothers) & Sister Rose Courtesy Of Capitol Records Under License From Universal Music Enterprises
Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud (Parts 1&2) Written By James Brown And Pee Wee Ellis
Freedom Ride Written By Joe Defilippo Performed By R.J. Phillips Band Courtesy Of Joe Defilippo
We are Gonna be Okay Written By Daniel Whitener, Eileen Whitener Performed By Dan Whitener Courtesy Of Dan Whitener
Brandy (Yo're a Fine Girl) Written By Elliot Lurie Performed By Looking Glass Courtesy Of Columbia Records By Arrangement With Sony Music Entertainment
Ball of Confusion (That's What the World is Today) Written By Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield Performed By The Temptations Courtesy Of Motown Records Under License From Universal Music Enterprises
Lion Eyes Written By Jordan Burchill, Mikaela Kahn Performed By Beth / James Courtesy Of Jordan Burchill, Mikaela Kahn
Photo Opp's from Inside Man Written By Terence Blanchard
Lucky Man Written By Greg Lake Performed By Emerson Lake and Palmer (as Emerson, Lake & Palmer) Courtesy Of Leadclass Limited By Arrangement With BMG Rights Management (US) LLC
Mary Don't You Weep Traditional Arranged By Prince (as Prince Rogers Nelson) Performed By Prince Courtesy Of NPG Records, Inc. Under Exclusive License To Warner Bros. Records Inc. By Arrangement With Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing


Cannes Film Festival 2018
Winner Grand Prize of the Jury Spike Lee
Winner Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention Spike Lee
Nominee Palme d'Or Spike Lee

Jerusalem Film Festival 2018
Nominee The Lia Van Leer Award Spike Lee

Locarno International Film Festival 2018
Winner Audience Award Spike Lee
Nominee Variety Piazza Grande Award Spike Lee

Sydney Film Festival 2018
Nominee Sydney Film Prize Best Film Spike Lee


MPAA Rated R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references

Australia:MA15+ Canada:14A (Alberta) Canada:14A (British Columbia) Germany:12 Ireland:16 Netherlands:12 New Zealand:RP13 Norway:12 Sweden:11 United Kingdom:15 United States:R (#51555)

While other police officers aim guns at a small group of blacks, a bad cop spews out racist crudities and fondles a black woman from behind, rubbing himself up against her.
He later aggressively and sexually approaches the same woman again before being stopped.
A Klan member asks another man to expose his genitals to prove he's not Jewish (something that doesn't actually happen).

Director Spike Lee includes clips from the 1915 silent movie drama THE BIRTH OF A NATION in his storyline, arguing that the film's violent images and dramatic perspective gave rebirth to the Ku Klux Klan, while also stirring up hatred and violence around the country.
Elsewhere C-4 explosive detonates, blowing up two cars and killing three people.
Various people are held at gunpoint and beaten to the ground.
A group of men hold target practice and shoot at metal cutout targets representing running black children.
And they also shoot at an African-American in a car.
Klansmen talk regularly about the bloody carnage they hope to unleash upon blacks and Jews, and the rapturous feelings they experience while just thinking about such murder and torture.
They discuss the "beauty" of the mass extinction in the holocaust (or deny it totally).
They repeatedly talk about black men raping white women.
An elderly black man tells the visceral story of a mentally challenged friend who was accused falsely of rape and burned alive in the city square.
Along with hearing some very grisly details regarding that terrible crime, we're also shown graphic postcards that memorialized the savage public event.
A civil-rights activist talks about the need for blacks to take up arms and prepare for the inevitable war between the races.
And near its end, BlacKkKlansman symbolically illustrates that call by having Ron and a black student-activist love interest, Patrice, both pull guns and point them at the camera while visuals of modern day racism dominates the screen.

Nearly 50 f-words and 10 s-words are joined by 40 n-words.
Jesus' name is used as a swear five times.
God's name is paired with "d--n" three times.
We also hear multiple uses each of the words "a--," "d--n," "h---" and "b--ch."
The film includes people spewing other offensive crudities related to the male anatomy,
contemptuous racial slurs for Jews, Mexicans and African-Americans.

Walter, Flip and other Klan members smoke regularly.
They also drink lots of beers and liquor at their meetings (sometimes with firearms in their presence).
Some cops celebrate with beers in a bar.
Ron and Patrice drink wine at dinner.

This movie may offend some people because it deals with racism.
Footage from the Charlottesville White Supremacy demonstration, replete with violence, are highly disturbing

Cast overview, first billed only:
Alec Baldwin ... Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard
John David Washington ... Ron Stallworth
Isiah Whitlock Jr. ... Mr. Turrentine
Robert John Burke ... Chief Bridges
Brian Tarantina ... Officer Clay Mulaney
Arthur J. Nascarella ... Officer Wheaton
Ken Garito ... Sergeant Trapp
Frederick Weller ... Master Patrolman Andy Landers
Adam Driver ... Flip Zimmerman
Michael Joseph Buscemi ... Jimmy Creek
Laura Harrier ... Patrice Dumas
Damaris Lewis ... Odetta
Ato Blankson-Wood ... Hakeem
Corey Hawkins ... Kwame Ture [Stokely Carmichael]
Dared Wright ... Officer Cincer
Topher Grace ... David Duke
Harry Belafonte ... Jerome Turner

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