Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote “Lysistrata”, a play about persuading women to withhold sex from their men as means of forcing them to negotiate the end of the Peloponnesian War. The homie Spike Lee takes a page from Aristophanes’ book with his new joint “Chi-Raq”. This modern-day version deals with the catastrophic black-on-black violence epidemic on the south side of Chicago. It has gotten so bad that they’ve nicknamed it Chi-Raq, akin to the violence in Iraq. In “Chi-Raq”, The talented and beautiful Teyonah Parris plays Lysistrata, a south side Chicago Queen loyal to her man and gang leader, Demetrius “Chi-Raq” Dupree, played by Nick Cannon. Chi-Raq is involved in a never-ending, bloody feud with rival gang leader, Cyclops, played by Wesley Snipes. After an innocent little girl is murdered as a result of the gang violence, Lysistrata becomes fed up and enlists the help of her crew and Cyclops’s girlfriend Indigo along with her crew. Her plan to stop the violence is simple: Create a “No Smash Zone” until their men wise up and quit killing each other. No sex?! (Picture the scene from “Do the Right Thing” with the white guy who steps on ya boy’s Jordans as I say this) AWWWWWW!!! Now, even before the movie was shown, Lee was getting shade from many people off the trailer alone for making light of such a serious situation. How could he turn one of the greatest problems in the black community into a dayum comedy? A dayum satire? Before I continue, let me give you the definition of “Satire”. It is the USE of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity and vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. Got it? Cool. “Chi-Raq” is not a funny, heartless and exploitive look at south side Chicago’s black youth violence. It is a Spike Lee-inspired film, reminiscent of “Skool Daze” which offers a new way of looking at a lingering problem. First of all, “Chi-Raq” has dialogue done in rhyming couplets…they’re spitting like Drake, y’all! It will throw you off at first because, hey, we’re not used to an entire cast sounding like a B.E.T Hip-hop awards cypher. Once you get past the opening scenes, it becomes understandable, plus the speech patterns are normal. The only difference is the sentences rhyme.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Dolmedes, sort of like a narrator or host that guides you through the scenes. Remember his role as Senior Love Daddy in “Do the Right Thing”? Yep, that’s him. Angela Bassett gives a great performance as Miss Helen, one of the elder neighborhood women that saw what the south side was and has seen what it has become. There’s an emotional scene with Jennifer Hudson who plays the slain girl’s mother. I wouldn’t want anyone’s mom to experience what she has to do. John Cusack plays Father Mike Corridan, a south side pastor concerned with the violence. He gives one of the best performances I’ve seen in any of his films! There is a funeral scene in which he preaches THE BEST sermon you will witness on the big screen. It is real, powerful, honest, and thought-provoking. Nick Cannon’s portrayal of a gang leader is not only convincing, but the true embodiment of a black youth lacking guidance. He nails it in this movie. “Chi-Raq does have its drawbacks, however. As with any Spike Lee joint, some scenes are a little strange. Some involve an armory major being “seduced” and a sex-battle (?) that leave you scratching your head like, “Why was this even in here?” I did enjoy the sex-battle, though. Also, there are some comedic moments that don’t quite hit the mark. Comedy isn’t one of Lee’s strong suits and it shows here. That aside, “Chi-Raq” is one of Lee’s best films in years. This is a Chicago movie in every sense of the word that should not be taken lightly. And that’s the truth…Ruth.
“Chi-Raq” will not solve black-on-black violence. It will be a catalyst for change, though. Lee makes us take a hard look ourselves and does so with wit and grit. This movie is rated R for a reason, too. It is violent at times, sexual and sensual. I mean, it was so quiet in the theater during those sex-scenes, you could hear a pin drop! Lol! Whew! This movie is only in 305 theaters, so you may not get to see it. If you’re lucky enough to be in an area that shows it, check it out! While “Chi-Raq” isn’t the greatest movie I’ve seen, it’s still a GREAT movie. I’m co-signing it to the fullest! This Spike Lee joint is a brazen, abstract work of art that should hang on theater walls everywhere!
Self-Destruction, ya headed for self-destruction…
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