Our film is set in the 70s and introduces us to Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African-American rookie policeman from Colorado. Ron’s job in the police station is to return and retrieve criminal files when requested by fellow police officers. Ron feels he is called for greater things and feels ready for something big, something like … going undercover. When he expresses this to his captain, he is then transferred to work in the “Resources” department.
While in Resources, Ron reads local newspapers, looking for clues or any leads he feels should be investigated. Ron soon finds a local ad for the “Ku Klux Klan” and he calls them, pretending to be a racist white guy over the phone. He does this so well that he manages to get an invite to discuss the group in person further. There’s just one problem… Ron can’t meet these people in person. Ron is encouraged to work with a fellow officer, Flip (played by Adam Driver), who will pretend to be Ron in person and Ron himself will continue the communications over the phone. The two officers will work together to question and investigate the group’s intentions and seek out if there are any plans or threats to the people within the city.
This film can be classed as a true story, but it also has a touch of comedy. The film’s dialogue contains many well-written lines. For many cinemas viewers, there are funny moments to be seen and enjoyed through the exchange. For me personally, I found humour within this film came from the actual journey which our two leads took. How these two officers discover and find essential information in this investigation was somewhat surprising, even more so when I had to remind myself again and again that this film is based on a true story and this happened!
This film is well written, well directed and most importantly, it’s incredibly well-acted. I’m not surprised to see Adam Driver succeeding in his role here once again, but most importantly, the son of Denzel Washington, John David Washington who played Ron Stallworth, takes the lead in this film and the results are fantastic. I found his performance to be a rather memorable one. The world of the 70s is alive, and the costume design and the film’s soundtrack is genuinely nailed here.
By the end of the film, I felt that it was rather evident that the film had several key messages to deliver from the passionate director, Spike Lee. I felt these were unexpected but most certainly welcomed for 2018. If you were expecting a Starsky and Hutch style of action film, you could be somewhat shocked. The critical element of the film is simply the incredible story that took place in the 70s. The focus is not on delivering an action-packed comedy film by any means.
Overall, this is a truly outstanding film by Spike Lee. The film has an incredible story to share, along with passionate messages suitable for 2018. The film isn’t a knock out action comedy film, but it can bring some chuckles either through actual events that took place with these characters or perhaps the general dialogue. In the end, this is a film that will evoke different feelings in each and everyone one of us. If the director wanted people to have discussions after seeing this film, then I would say it worked.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden