Zach Ralston’s review published on Letterboxd:
My original review still holds, and if anything I underrated it, so I'm gonna go ahead and double down on it now.
Such a powerful argument in favor of cinema as a tool for so many things: propaganda, social change (both for better and for worse), cultural iconography (Shaft vs. Superfly?), sexual desire (Pam Grier vs. Cybill Shepherd), and documentation. Take the opening scene: where Baldwin spews his hacking bigotry in front of a movie screen, as he stares down a burning hot projector... take the cop in the records room saying "I don't like black and white movies..." the line from GONE WITH THE WIND and BIRTH OF A NATION to COFFY and ultimately documentary footage of Trump and Duke. The art form itself is a tool that in some hands can be awful and in others uplifting and revolutionary, but either way it's powerful -- and not to be ignored, taken lightly, or dismissed.
Lee then takes touchstones of cultural imagery and flips them upside down -- in direct form, he does this in the final image of an American flag drained of color and turned on its head; in a more artistic way, he takes the cliché racist fear of a black man (in street clothes) chasing after a white woman clutching her purse, as he wrestles her to the ground. This is not what the white cops think it is (and what decades of American propaganda have said it is); it's a detective apprehending a terrorist. There's the stunning juxtaposition of the Klan shouting "white power!" in a desperate plea to assert their oppressive dominance, with the black student union shouting "black power!" in a totally different context: reclaiming the ability to stand equal. It's another endorsement of Black Lives Matter as well as an argument against the bigoted flawed logicians wondering what we'd say if there was a White Lives Matter.
As always, Lee and Barry Alexander Brown's edits are precise and cutting. Note when they cut away from the Kwame Ture rally to go into the police car where Flip and Jimmy are listening in -- one is right on the line "Fuck the police." Lee is being nuanced and complicated with regard to his feelings about police here. Despite Boots Riley's assertion that Lee is just being a puppet for the cops (and his objections to the movie do have some merit and are worthy of debate, although I disagree with them, it's just that this one point seems absurd), this movie has so many other positions. First of all, Stallworth is *never* comfortable in the police station. He's always alone, always the only black cop. Secondly, Patrice is always challenging his identity. Third, Lee's script condemns the police in the scene where Lee questions Landers's naked racism: Jimmy and Flip defend the force, saying "right or wrong, we're a brotherhood," and Ron points out that that's a motto that could apply to the Klan as well. Bang bang bang, three seconds of gunfire before we cut to the woods.