Movie Review: Chi-Raq

Written by on December 4, 2015

Movie Review: Chi-Raq

Movie Review: Chi-Raq

After all the bickering over the title, Chi-Raq hit the theaters. This film is a traditional “Spike Lee Joint.” His movies, or “Joints,” do not follow the usual routes of character development. The actors frequently break out into entertaining musical numbers and short comedy skits about controversial topics. Spike Lee fans know to brace themselves for possible telephones that might fall out the sky from nowhere, or maybe an occasional upside-down camera shot. None of that happened this time. However, the cinematography does a fine job of capturing the city as the visual backdrop of the story.

The time and energy Chicago politicians spent on the title of this movie is ridiculous. The Mayor and city council feared Lee would glorify Chicago violence to the point where tourist would not want to visit Chicago.

First of all, the title of a film alone will not determine if a movie glorifies violence. Secondly, tourists already know the murder rate in Chicago is high. But they also know tourists aren’t the people passing away everyday on the South and West sides of the city.

The high crime areas are predominantly African American. Anyone who has ever seen a “Spike Lee Joint” knows he would never directly throw Black people under the bus on camera. As far as Spike Lee is concerned, Black people are always welcomed to get on the bus (no pun intended).

At the same time, this flick doesn’t offer any solutions to the sky high murder rate either. The visual backdrop is all the way Chicago, but the script and the voice of the characters are not. In that aspect, the movie took a hard swing but completely missed the ball.

However, Spike Lee is a master when it comes to exploiting important topics and getting up under people’s skin while making them think. That’s exactly what he did by naming this film Chi-Raq. Chicago politicians should now feel like buffoons, blockheads, and simpletons for spending so much time debating over the title of this movie.

At the start, the film blatantly states it is an adaptation of the play Lysistrata, by Aristophanes. That is a comedy performed in 411 BC, where a woman leads other women from Greece into withholding sex from men. They do this to try and end the Peloponnesian War. In this “Joint,” Greece metaphorically equates the streets of Chicago, and the Peloponnesian War is comparable to black-on-black crime.

Nick Cannon is the very fictional lead character named Chi-Raq. He’s an up and coming local gangster rapper with ties to a very fictional Chicago street gang. His girl, Lysistrata, is played by Teyonah Parris. She is fine as all get up. Somebody should be sopping her up off a plate with a biscuit, multiple times a day.

Samuel L. Jackson narrates the story. Wesley Snipes and Angela Bassett have supporting roles. These three big named performers have done prior work with Spike Lee on multiple projects.

The manner in which the characters execute their dialog shocked me. For the first thirty minutes of the movie, I asked myself, “Are they really doing this? No, for real? Angela Bassett is playing along, too?”

John Cusack carries out the role of Fr. Mike Corridan, a Caucasian preacher that is deeply involved with the citizens of the South side of Chicago. Fr. Mike Corridan is arguably the most endearing character in the movie, and he is overwhelmingly similar to the real life Rev. Michael Pfleger of Chicago. If this movie glorifies anything or anybody, it’s the Reverend Pfleger.

Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson serves the role of Irene, a local single mother. Steve Harris, Harry Lennix, D.B. Sweeney, Dave Chappell, and Chicago’s own George Willborn round out an all-star cast.

With all the attention paid to the title of this movie by politicians, I expected it to solve a problem or something. I wanted it to cure a disease or end poverty. None of that happened. It does however suggest that those things should be done. At the end of the day, this “Spike Lee Joint” delivers the same message that Lee has tried to deliver for decades now. That message is, “Please, wake up.”

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