(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)
(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)
SW score: 42
4.2 out of 5 octopi
Congratulations, Spike. You directed the shit out of this movie. A “truth is stranger than fiction” story with excellent performances by two of Hollywood’s young lions make this a socially conscious cop drama with unusual and undeniable style.
I saw this movie when it came out back in 2018. It’s really sad that this movie is set multiple decades ago but we are still dealing with the same racist fucking problems. I’m writing this after the huge week of protests against police brutality (the week of June 1st, 2020). I usually don’t inject politics into my reviews but I just want to make one thing clear. If you’re not down with #blacklivesmatter, you can go fuck yourself.
Now, back to the lecture at hand. It’s funny how it’s funny to me that John David Washington sounds a lot like his father. Of course he does, you idiot (talking to myself), they are father and son. They look a lot alike, too.
I don’t have a lot to say about this movie. I thought it was an expertly crafted crime thriller/drama. Spike’s done this before with Inside Man but that obviously didn’t have the social commentary aspect that this does. John David Washington plays a cool, understated cop role well and I’m always down for Adam Driver’s weirdness acting style. I’m a stan, I won’t lie. Topher Grace was solid as David Duke. I know even a shit pile like David Duke was young once but it just seems odd to see him that way. The Trump allusions are pretty overt:
“For America to achieve its greatness again!”
The Klansmen complaining about politically correct culture even back in the 70s.
David Duke saying “America First.” (Of course, he wasn’t the first to use this; it was back in the middle part of the 20th century.)
Racism never seems to lose a sense of creativity. Just when I think I’ve seen all the repugnant flavors of racism on screen, Spike treats us to two absurd new moments that are simply surreal and horrible at the same time:
A new ethnic slur: “Mississippi wind chime”
The slur-filled pillow talk scene between two racist lovers
I guess it’s good the racists are trying to keep it fresh?
One last shout out to Spike Lee: You couldn’t resist having Isiah Whitlock Jr. say sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeett, could you? I don’t blame you. I would have done the same damn thing.
The end was a depressing montage of racist moments in American history culminating with that piece of shit white supremacist driving his car into a crowd of people in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer. I’d only seen that footage in small windows on my laptop. But seeing it take up the entirety of a large movie theater screen really made it hit hard again. Actually, it hit harder. Spike throws up an upside down American flag (the official sign of distress) as the last image.
My question is when was America not distressed?
(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.
(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)
(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so
(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)