In trying times like these, the movies of Spike Lee – a director who has explored the complicated race relations of modern America in greater detail than any other filmmaker – seem to be more appropriate than ever, and Netflix seemingly agrees. As protests sweep across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the streamer has just dropped two of Spike’s most iconic films on the platform tody, each starring actor Denzel Washington in the lead role.
The first, Malcom X, which released in 1992, narrates the life and death of black activist Malcolm Little. After being incarcerated during his youth, Little discarded his “slave name” and replaced it with an X – a placeholder for the name of his African ancestors that was irreversibly lost when they were brought to the United States as slaves.
The yin to Martin Luther King’s yang, Malcolm X urged his followers to act rather than wait for the passive power of universal love to end their suffering. Given the state that many American cities now find themselves in, Malcolm X could not have arrived to Netflix’s library at a more suitable moment.
The second, Inside Man, centers around an elaborate bank heist carried out in Manhattan’s famously-corrupt Wall Street district. Because the film was not written by Spike himself, the subject matter is understandably less topical than that of the previously-mentioned movie. As is to be expected of the founder of 40 Acres And A Mule Filmworks, however, the picture still touches on the tenuous power relationships defining a society founded on the American Dream.
Although Denzel Washington gives a stellar and highly multifaceted performance in each, his talents take a back seat to the pressing subject matter. Indeed, during days like these, it almost seems somewhat inappropriate to continue watching wish-fulfilling blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame, and perhaps precisely because they present a world in which good always triumphs over evil.