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Reviews » 4K UHD Reviews » BlacKkKlansman (4K Ultra HD) (4K UHD)
BlacKkKlansman (4K Ultra HD) (4K UHD)
Universal // R // November 6, 2018 // Region 0
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted December 3, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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THE FILM:

Spike Lee's latest is certainly right up his alley of issue-driven but entertaining dramas. Based on a memoir by Ron Stallworth, the first black police officer and detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, BlacKkKlansman is topical, timely and highly enjoyable. Anchored by excellent performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver, the film recounts Stallworth's infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s with the help of his white partner. Lee's films are always passionate but not always subtle, but BlacKkKlansman offers a nimble mix of social commentary, crackling drama and lightning-quick humor. This is a wild true story, something the film proudly declares in the opening titles, highlighting that it is based on some "fo real, fo real shit." Any film that undermines racial bigotry with targeted humor is welcome in these turbulent times, and Lee again shows his talent as a socially conscious filmmaker.

If BlacKkKlansman is a bit rough around the edges it may be because so much is going on here. It is at once a period drama with pointed commentary on modern race relations; a black comedy with whip-smart writing by Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott; and a well-acted thriller about law enforcement officers battling dangerous radicals. Officer Stallworth (Washington) first is dumped in the records department where he meets several racist coworkers and twiddles his thumbs between pulling files. He requests a transfer, and Police Chief Bridges (Robert John Burke) offers him the opportunity to attend a rally by civil rights leader Kwame Ture undercover to determine if black students at Colorado College are preparing for a violent confrontation. He proves competent, and soon is transferred to the intelligence division. Stallworth then cold calls a local Ku Klux Klan chapter and feigns interest in joining. Stallworth agrees to meet chapter members in person, and recruits his partner, Jewish Detective Flip Zimmerman (Driver), to go and act as Stallworth. Thus begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse as the two men act as one to stop impending racial violence.

Scenes where Stallworth dupes Klan members on the telephone are hilarious. His fellow officers stand around in fits of laughter as he lists all the races, creeds and religions he hates to stoke the interests of his hateful brethren. Things are tenser for Zimmerman, who looks the part of pure Aryan but hides his Jewish heritage from local chapter president Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold). Member Felix Kendrickson (Jasper Paakkonen) is immediately suspicious of Zimmerman and forces him into a lie detector test at gunpoint, necessitating Stallworth to fire shots outside the building to break up the inquisition. The detectives both work to stop an impending act of violence to coincide with the arrival of Grand Wizard David Duke (an excellent Topher Grace, playing against type). The Klan in Colorado Springs has until now been satisfied with cross burnings and distributing racist literature, but radical members like Kendrickson, his wife Connie (Ashlie Atkinson) and their idiot friend Ivanhoe (Paul Walter Hauser) are ready to oppress with bloodshed.

BlacKkKlansman is remarkably tense in scenes where the real Stallworth and the man playing him are in danger of being revealed. This tense drama necessitates the ferocious bites of black humor found throughout. I also enjoyed the interwoven romance of Stallworth and Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), the president of the local student union who chastises Stallworth for his passive response to blatant racism. Their relationship is complicated, and an interesting counter to the built-in-hate union of Felix and Connie. Washington and Driver both are excellent, and Driver continues to prove himself a serious actor capable of tackling challenging material. Despite the 135-minute running time, Lee keeps the narrative moving, and the film never drags. The direction is expectedly good, as is Chayse Irvin's cinematography, and the collaboration with Blumhouse Productions may signal an exciting new direction for Lee's films. A sobering coda ends the film and cements how topical BlacKkKlansman is. This is a very strong project from talented director Lee.

THE 4K ULTRA HD:

PICTURE:

Universal unspools BlacKkKlansman on 4K Ultra HD with a 2.40:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10. This is a native 4K presentation and it looks phenomenal. Lee shot the film on 35mm, and this 4K transfer is sourced from a 4K digital intermediate. The entire presentation is cinematic and lifelike, with excellent fine-object detail and texture. Facial features are intimately detailed, and every facet of the fabrics and set dressings are visible with striking clarity. Wide shots are expansive and offer abundant detail, too. Grain is subtle and filmic, and the image looks wonderful in motion. Skin tones are spot-on, highlights never bloom and colors are nicely saturated. The HDR pass is subtle, but offers viewers bold landscapes and primaries. Black levels are strong, as is shadow detail, and I only saw one brief instance of aliasing. Overall, this is an excellent transfer.

SOUND:

The 4K disc offers a Dolby Atmos track that I experienced in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD. This is not a huge-budget action spectacle, but the track is no less immersive. Dialogue is consistently clear, whether delivered from the center channel or surrounds, and dialogue sound pans are effective. Ambient effects like crowd noise and weather make good use of the surrounds, and the limited action bits benefit from excellent LFE response and crackling surround action. The score and popular music selections are integrated effectively. French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes are also included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc set includes the 4K disc, a Blu-ray and an HD digital copy. The discs are packed in a standard 4K case that is wrapped in a slipcover. The limited bonus features are found on both discs. Although a documentary about the real-life participants in this drama would have been welcome, you only get A Spike Lee Joint (5:09/HD), a brief EPK with actor interviews, and BlacKkKlansman Extended Trailer featuring Prince's "Mary Don't You Weep" (4:29/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Director Spike Lee's latest is based on the incredible true story of the black Colorado Springs officer who infiltrated the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Offering excellent performances, crackling humor and intense drama, BlacKkKlansman is timely, sobering and, above all, highly entertaining. Highly Recommended

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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