Saturday, November 5, 2022

REVIEW: BlacKkKlansman (live action movie)

BlacKkKlansman is based on Ron Stallworth's memoir Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime, which I read back in 2018. I bought my copy used.


When Ron Stallworth becomes the first Black cop in the Colorado Springs Police Department, he starts off in the Records room before being given his first undercover assignment, attending a rally where civil rights leader Kwame Ture is speaking. While there, he meets Patrice, the president of the Black Student Union at Colorado College.

After that, Ron is assigned to the Intelligence division. He calls the local chapter of the KKK and pretends to be a white man who's interested in joining and would like more information. Unfortunately, he accidentally uses his own name, and now the Klan members want to meet him. He manages to get permission to work with a coworker of his, Flip Zimmerman ("Chuck" in the original memoir), to somehow make it work - he'll be the phone voice of white Ron Stallworth, while Flip will be the in-person white Ron Stallworth.

So begins Ron's efforts to juggle multiple sides of his life. He begins seeing Patrice, who doesn't know that he's a police officer, occasionally deals with racist cops, and works with Flip to get in deeper with the KKK and monitor their plans.

I read the book this was based on back in 2018 and, although I had some issues with it, overall thought it was worth reading. I was wondering how the movie adaptation would be handled, since, in real life, the story pretty much just stopped - the investigation was suddenly closed. Although that happened in the movie as well, there were several things that were changed, I assume to add more satisfying moments to the story than the actual events provided.

For example, the movie spent more time paralleling the efforts of Colorado College's Black Student Union and the KKK, and made several members of the KKK direct opponents of Patrice, the president of the Black Student Union. It came to a head with a dramatic attempt on her life which, as far as I know, was completely made up, but which provided viewers with the action, police arrest, and some of the closure that the memoir didn't. I'm also pretty sure that the final scene with David Duke over the phone and the final scene with Landers (a renamed "Officer Ed"?) were both made up as well, again to provide more closure.

I wonder how the real-life Ron Stallworth felt about this adaptation? Just based on the way he wrote about "Antifa," I have a feeling certain moments wouldn't have sat well with him. For example, the movie's ending included footage of the protest against the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the incident in which a car drove into the crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring others, as well as footage of Trump's "very fine people on both sides" comment. Personally, I felt that the way the movie linked its events and the KKK with current events at the time the movie was made (2018) was fitting.

Overall, this adaptation was kind of underwhelming. If you only have time for one version of the story, I'd recommend the memoir over the movie. That said, those frustrated with some of Ron Stallworth's interpretations might appreciate the movie's take on things.

No comments:

Post a Comment