Uche’s review published on Letterboxd:
This one has me at a disadvantage. I wanted to love it way more than I do.
I'm aware of what Spike Lee is aiming for here and I do understand that he is not a subtle filmmaker. His messages are usually in your face, for better or worse.
Most times, it is for the better.
For some reason, it just did not work out here (for me).
Because this is not a narrative you want to undercut with comedy.
Why the hell are these racist scenarios in the film trying so hard to amuse me? Why the hell is it so preachy to the point of being nearly tone-deaf? Why the hell is such a crucial and topical subject matter being mishandled by a director who should definitely know better?
So many questions.
Let me get the positives out of the way. John David Washington is fantastic as Ron Stallworth. The charisma his role requires being the first Black officer in a Colorado precinct and as someone who finds a way to infiltrate the KKK, he brings it in spades. He is great to watch throughout.
Adam Driver is really good as well.
In fact, performances across the board are great.
The screenplay reads like it is aware of what it wants to do regardless of the fact that it isn't doing it well, so that's sort of a good thing.
The directing as well; very precise.
Terence Blanchard's jazz score is soothing and evocative in the right moments.
The first act comes along nicely setting up the events to come. All well and good. The second act is just an overlong, misguided, tonally confused drag which leads to a third that tries to be powerful but fails up until the very final moments (which may even be seen as exploitative).
On a technical scale, the editing is sloppy to the point where I wonder if it's on purpose. Jarring jump cuts happen frequently and take you out of several of the scenes (especially in the frenetic third act).
A film with the temerity to deal in such an “in-depth” manner with racism and racial politics should be profound and uncompromising. This one isn't and that's where it loses me.
Make no mistake, Lee has a very powerful message here. One that should never not be addressed and talked about. It's the execution and the tone that leave a lot to be desired (at least, for me).
I'm pretty bummed because given the extensive praise I've seen for the film, I expected something far beyond what I witnessed.