BLACKKKLANSMAN — Review by Susan Granger

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Opening with a Civil War scene from Gone With the Wind (1939) and closing with footage from the Charlottesville riots (2017), Spike Lee’s “crazy, outrageous, incredible true story” about Ron Stallworth is both historical and relevant. In the early 1970s when Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) became the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, he wanted to go undercover. His chance comes when he’s assigned to surreptitiously record a speech by former Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins), a.k.a. African nationalist Kwame Ture.

After making friends with the event’s organizer, righteous Colorado State Black Student Union leader Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), rookie Stallworth picks up the phone and calls the local Ku Klux Klan, inquiring about joining what’s referred to as “the Organization.”

When a meeting is arranged. Stallworth enlists Jewish colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to pose as him. To be convincing, Flip hangs out with Klan members at the local pool hall, spewing racial slurs.

When the national director of the “Organization,” David Duke (Topher Grace), visits Colorado Springs, Stallworth is ordered to be his bodyguard during a screening of D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (1915), celebrating the Klan.

Based on a book by Ron Stallworth, it’s scripted by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz Kevin Willmott and director Spike Lee, who treads a delicate line, juxtaposing the overt, institutional bigotry in the ‘70s with the racist behavior of some Americans since Donald Trump was elected President.

As opposed to exploitative, it’s emotionally effective, particularly when the white supremacist horror is peppered with comic relief. And, yes, two Klansmen worked at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) with top-security clearance.

John David Washington (Denzel’s son) and Adam Driver play off each other brilliantly, and Harry Belafonte scores as an elderly activist who describes witnessing a friend’s lynching when he was a child.

“Black KKlansman” won the Grand Prix at Cannes and will, inevitably, surface again at Oscar-time.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Black kKlansman” is a timely 10, cleverly constructed and visually cathartic.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.