Posted in Reviews, Top Stories, Uncategorized by - December 09, 2015

When Spike Lee made the controversial decision to name his newest movie “Chi-Raq”, we knew it meant one thing: Chi-Raq would be about much more than entertainment. This plot was meant to send a message, and a strong one at that. Chi-Raq accomplishes that for sure, as this feature is very entertaining, but definitely packs a powerful political message along for the ride.

Chi-Raq is a movie based on Lysistrata, an ancient Greek play written by Aristophanes in the year 411 BCE. The story follows Lysistrata herself, played by Teyonah Parris, and a rising rapper and gang leader who goes by Chi-Raq, played by Nick Cannon. Lysistrata sees one innocent killing too many, and decides to rally up all her fellow women to take control of their respective gang member boyfriends. They use the power of lust and natural sexual desire to demand peace, and all hell breaks loose. Director, Spike Lee, uses a rhythmic scheme to the narrative, keeping true to the original play and providing an interesting element throughout the film. Chi-Raq highlights a very real issue: gang wars in Chicago, and the resulting violence causing the loss of thousands of lives, particularly black lives. The release of Chi-Raq comes at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, which makes this plot line even more relatable to its target audience.

While creatively ambitious, Chi-Raq is immensely political, almost overpoweringly political. This presents the possibility of overshadowing the crucial element of entertainment, although they narrowly evaded that. Throughout this entire film, it feels like a power struggle between the movement Spike Lee was trying to provoke, and natural enjoyment of the film. Chi-Raq has a lot of charming and stimulating components to it, such as comedy, excitement and arousing flashes all around. The screenplay, written by Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, is intriguing in the sense that they are able to use am enormous amount of vulgarity, while still staying true to the message they are attempting to portray. This narrative is beautifully done while filmed all in Chicago, providing an enormous amount of authenticity. With solid performances out of Parris and Cannon, the acting does a admirable job of communicating the passion within the issue. The narrative definitely has star power; with meaningful and impactful supporting roles such as Wesley Snipes’ Cyclops, Angela Bassett’s Miss Helen, John Cusack’s Father Mike Corridan, and Jennifer Hudson’s Irene. Those additions to the cast heighten the screenplay to another level as far as acting is considered. To top all of that, Chi-Raq features Samuel L. Jackson as Dolmedes, who essentially is the narrater of the film, but also adds and important comic effect to the film.

I wanted to have fun and enjoy this narrative, and at times I did, but overall I felt a level of discomfort, as if I should be out doing something for this issue instead of sitting in a theatre eating popcorn and sipping a soda. Chi-Raq is undoubtedly an interesting watch, and is bound to draw audiences of all types. I do not want to say this is a bad film, or an unenjoyable film, however this is not the type of plot one goes to see to enjoy a Saturday evening. I empathize deeply with the movement Chi-Raq demands attention to, however I worry about the potential for this screenplay to get its message spread. Due to its vulgarity, it’s impossible for this to be shown on mainstream television once its theater run is over, and its limited theater release doesn’t bode well for box office numbers or wide exposure. If you’re a fan of all films, give it a shot, otherwise tread lightly.

Official Trailer:

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