MALCOLM X opens with a pair of intercut, highly polemical images: the notorious video footage of unarmed black motorist Rodney King being beaten by white L.A. policemen; and an American flag burning down into the shape of an "X." Yet this is one of only a few times in the film where
director Spike Lee wears his politics on his sleeve. Lee's biography of the slain civil rights leader treats Malcolm, not as a political rallying point, but as a fully rounded individual whose life defies reduction to symbolic status. The movie begins during WWII, when Malcolm Little (Denzel
Washington) and his friend Shorty (Lee) are hustlers in Boston's Black Roxbury section. We then ...