Director: Spike Lee

Starring: Teyonah Parris, Nick Cannon, Angela Bassett

Year: 2015

Chi-Raq is one of the most fascinating movies of 2015, but far from one of the best.  Its backstory and message are what make it a must-see, but its acting changes it into something to avoid.  So, what’s the consensus on this polarizing film?  I’d say that falls somewhere in the middle, critics & audiences agreeing.  Chi-Raq is based on the Greek comedy Lysistrata but set in modern day Chicago, a combination that works in theory, with a morality tale that’s begging to be told, but unfortunately doesn’t come across in this film with the sort of quality audiences will be looking for.  Spike Lee channels Michael Moore, backs his story up with a hip hop soundtrack, adds in the theatrical, but fails to bring it all together for a successful final product.

As the death toll in Chicago surpasses that of Iraq, the people of the streets cry out for justice in a world that rarely gives them the time of day.  Gang violence kills the innocent, children grow up with no future, and a gun costs less than a computer.  With no one to care, the hoods will just kill each other off, while the rich sit and watch in their skyscrapers down town.  Lysistrata, the girlfriend of the most powerful rapper & gang leader in town, stumbles upon a way to keep the Spartans & the Trojans from their bloody game; deny them the pleasure of their women.  That’s right, a sex strike, in which all the women of the city & the world unite to withhold their love until all men put down their guns, stop the killing, and bring peace to our planet.

This play is excellent, I had the good fortune to see it some years ago, and it’s so incredibly well written that it can withstand being transferred to any time period, especially to one in which violence is king.  Spike Lee takes the ancient tale, places it in Chicago, where it works on all levels and retains its relevance.  Lee uses statistics in rhymes to open our eyes to what is happening in our own country, where crime is being ignored while billions are spent in the Middle East.  It’s a powerful message, a funny way to get it across, and becomes a story worth hearing.  The music was strong as well, and so were the verses spoken by the actors, more rap than dialogue, but perfectly fitting the scene.  My problem with the film was the acting, which was awful, except for narration done by Samuel L. Jackson, which was excellent, of course.  But Parris & Cannon aren’t lead actors, the movie became a documentary far too often, its run time was far too long, and I began to lose interest by the end.  A film that’s better in concept than in delivery, Chi-Raq is still something worth seeing, both for the famous work it is based on and for its cool originality.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



By ochippie

Writer, Critic, Dad Columbus, Ohio, USA Denver Broncos, St. Louis Cardinals Colorado Avalanche, Duke Blue Devils