I. Simon’s review published on Letterboxd:
Feels like if Dean "I would've voted for Obama for a third term" Armitage made a film about the KKK, where the film keeps telling you “RACISM IS BAD! RACISM IS BAD!” - without ever actually going in depth on racial politics that could actually cause the film to be insightful and powerful - yet wants you to laugh every time the n-word (or just about any other racial slur, for that matter) is mentioned. I understand that the whole idea is that we’re supposed to not take these racist idiots seriously, but when there’s little-no character development, and the film focuses more on Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) than Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) for a decent-sized chunk of it, the way Spike Lee is handling the racial politics comes off as rather questionable, and it feels like BlackkKlansman is trying to be as pandering as it can be. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t blend comedy and political commentary into a film. BLINDSPOTTING did that earlier this year, but as amusing as that film was, it still went deep into racial politics and never once felt like it was pandering, and it ended up leaving a huge impact. BlackkKlansman, however, is trying too hard to please as many people as it can and, as a result, plays it far too safe by just touching the surface of racial politics, and therefore fails to be both insightful and memorable. (There’s even literally a scene spent on characters just throwing out the n-word. Wow, such insightful and powerful commentary right there.) On top of that, there’s an underdeveloped romantic subplot and it adds nothing to the film at all. If only the film spent less time on pointless stuff like that, and actually went deeper into the racial politics, and actually developed the characters a bit, we might have a great film here. Literally the only scene that isn’t playing it very safe is the awful last scene, which in itself (as some may have mentioned) is pretty exploitive.
That said, BlackkKlansman does still have things going for it that, while they can’t make the film anything more than mediocre, still keep it from being bad. The film is well acted across the board (John David Washington and Adam Driver in particular are very good), there are great production values (most notably the cinematography and costume design), and I can’t say I was bored, and all of that makes BlackkKlansman only more disappointing, because if only the film weren’t so concerned with being as compromising and easily-digestible as it could be, and would actually go deep into racial politics, we might have a great film here. A film about racism should make people feel uncomfortable, not make people feel good about themselves. Well, that’s exactly what BlackkKlansman does, so for that reason alone, it won’t be surprising in the slightest if it wins Best Picture. Overall, BlackkKlansman isn’t bad, but I’m not going to lie that I was very disappointed by it, especially because, given all of the praise, I was REALLY looking forward to this.
5/10 - C+