FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2018 -- It's been a while since I gave a feature-length Spike Lee film a good review. It's been ten years since I've even had anything moderately decent to say about A Spike Lee Joint film. That was in 2008 with his war movie "Miracle at St. Anna" which he started out well, then ruined. The film I gave a good review was "Inside Man" in 2006 - twelve years ago.


That's a long time for one of the best technical minds in filmdom to be putting out crap. "Old Boy", "Red Hook Summer", "Chi-Raq"? This crap was from the same guy who gave us "She's Gotta Have It", "Do the Right Thing", "Mo' Better Blues" and "Malcolm X"? No way!!!! Of course, Spikes infamous Hollywood Studio bashing didn't help things.


For all of that ranting, he can no longer approach the big studios and his last two movie funders - Netflix and Amazon - aren't presenting hi films the way he wants them presented; in the case of Chi-Raq that was a good thing. But Spike wants his films on the big screen in theaters. And the only purse willing to stake him for a theater worthy narrative feature is [wait for it]...our friends at Blumhouse.

After burning all the other bridges, Spike has followed fellow castaway M. Night Shyamalan to the house Jason Blum built. I'm assuming Jason opened his arms much like the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis did with cast away football players and said "Come here... just win baby!" Of course the rules also mean there will only be a very limited amount of funds.


The official movie budget hasn't been released, but supposedly Blumhouse "splurged" with a budget in the mid teens - around $15 million. What they got in return, so far is a film that took home not one but two awards from Cannes including the Grand Prix and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury; narrowly missing the trifecta of a Palme d'Or.


The film stars John David Washington (Denzel's boy) as rookie Colorado Springs cop Ron Stallworth, the first black cop on an all white force. He is immediately assigned to infiltrate a local Black Power civil rights gathering to gather intel on what they were up to since violence promoter Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture) would be speaking.


After successfully doing that - and meeting the lovely activist Patrice (Laura Harrier), Stallworth suggests to his chief (Robert John Burke) that he also infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan because he got word they were up to something. As preposterous as the idea sounded, he was able to pull it off by using another cop, Jewish cop Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), as his avatar.


Only one klansman, hardliner Felix (Jasper Paakkonen) was even the slightest suspicious. But the local boss Walter (Ryan Eggold), the chapter buffoon Ivanhoe (Paul Walter Hauser) nor anyone else in the chapter figure it out and provide all the comic relief of the film. This is especially true as they prepare to host the Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) who's coming to see... guess who?


Meanwhile, Stallworth starts getting cozy with Patrice while not letting on that he's a cop. That's rather difficult with the black activist (including Patrice) calling cops 'pigs'; a popular phrase back then.


Aside from the profundity of the situation, the film easily relates how these events from the seventies mirror event occurring during the Trump White House. Moreover, Spike Lee demonstrates the directorial skills that made a technical wizard. He guided Washington and the rest of the cast to wonderful performances while timing the humorous scenes perfectly. THIS is the best of Spike Lee satire.


As with just about every film Lee has developed, he brings back a legend in the person of Harry Belefonte in a small but historically meaningful role.


"BlacKkKlansman" is easily one of Spike Lee's best films and also one his most topical. It already garnered awards at Cannes, don't be surprised to see it make noise during the awards season.   -- GRADE A --   GEOFF BURTON