The Elevation of MALCOLM X

A much hyped film turns a complex militant's life into an overlong, tepid primer for black pride

The movie's first minutes promise the fire this time. A Patton-size U.S. flag fills the screen and is set ablaze. Video clips of Los Angeles cops pummeling a helpless Rodney King are underlaid with the words of Malcolm X fulminating against the white devil. Flames of black rage gnaw at the fabric of the flag until it is burned into a huge X. America, the image says, created Malcolm X in a centuries-old crucible of race hatred. And the legacy of Malcolm, murdered in 1965, helped define the battered field of today's Stars and Stripes.

Spike Lee is a logo maker...

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