"Chi-Raq" is the gutsiest, more entertaining and most important Spike Lee Joint yet. (by dave-mcclain)
Talk is cheap. Just ask anyone who decries the most recent example of gun violence in the news, but is frustrated by the lack of governmental or societal action to prevent future incidents. Or talk with the family and friends of anyone killed by a firearm. Of course, few groups in our society understand the problem better than African Americans, who are twice as likely as whites to be killed by guns. And few cities in the U.S. understand better than Chicago, where rates of shooting deaths are proportionally higher than in New York and L.A., and where there are more mass shootings than any <more>
other city in the U.S. In fact, from 2003 to 2011 there were almost as many homicides in Chicago as U.S. Servicemembers killed in Iraq 4267 vs. 4485 . Numbers like this have led some to refer to Chicago as Chi-Raq. Legendary director Spike Lee's 2015 film "Chi-Raq" R, 1:58 builds upon this idea, but it does a lot more than talk.As a way of calling attention to the high rate of gun violence in the U.S. – and the need for action – Lee has co-written along with Kevin Willmott , directed and produced a movie that entertains, informs and motivates, using a wider variety of elements than I can ever remember seeing in a major motion picture. The basic story comes from the play "Lysistrata" by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. The script is street talk, often set to verse in a way that would be familiar to Aristophanes or Shakespeare. Lee makes artistic decisions to use an on-camera narrator Samuel L. Jackson and have characters occasionally looking straight into the camera while talking to others, as he mixes drama, humor, eroticism, parody and song-and-dance numbers to deal with the deadly serious issue of inner city gun violence. As confused as all that might sound, this is actually a focused movie with a strong narrative.In the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, two rival gangs, the Spartans and the Trojans, are at war. Sometimes they injure or even kill each other and sometimes innocent bystanders fall victim to the violence. Designer eye patch-wearing gangbanger Cyclops Wesley Snipes is the leader of the Trojans, while a rapper called Chi-Raq Nick Cannon runs the Spartans. When the young daughter of an Englewood resident named Irene Jennifer Hudson is killed by a stray bullet and "nobody saw nothing'", some of the young women in the community take action. Encouraged by an older woman called Miss Helen Angela Bassett , Chi-Raq's girlfriend, Lysistrata Teyonah Paris does some reading and formulates the plan that is inspired by Aristophanes' play and which actually worked in Liberia in 2003 .Lysistrata gets her friends together with the girlfriends and wives from the rival gang and they all agree to a sex strike in order to force their men to abandon the tragic pattern of gang violence. The film's poster displays the women's motto mostly accurately as "No Peace, No Piece". Although they actually use a different word that starts with "p" in place of the word "piece". The men aren't happy about being denied physical affection, but they don't take the protest seriously at first. Women throughout the city sign on in solidarity and the sex strike starts spreading well beyond Chicago. Then, to help drive their point home, the Chicago women take over a local Army National Guard arsenal similar to actions taken by the women in Aristophanes' play . Everyone from the neighborhood priest John Cusack to the mayor of Chicago D.B. Sweeney try to help negotiate and/or force an end to the sex strike, but the women hold firm to their principles and continue to move straight forward with their piece plan.In lesser hands, "Chi-Raq" could have been an unwatchable mess, but Lee makes it work. He seamlessly brings together the movie's disparate elements and different film-making styles. Contrary to what some critics say about this particular Spike Lee Joint, "Chi-Raq" doesn't cheapen or make light of the problem that it exists to address. Lee and his actors alternately entertain us with very funny lines and sight gags as well as music and dancing, while also bringing us scenes of realistic drama and heartbreak. While many of the film's moments successfully get and keep our attention, others are equally powerful at inspiring us to act. The tactic of the sex strike is obviously not meant to be taken literally as a magical solution to the problem of gun violence, but it effectively conveys the film's overarching message that SOMETHING has to be done, and well-intentioned people need to be willing to do WHATEVER it takes to stop the killing. "Chi-Raq" is quite simply a brilliant film and may be the gutsiest, best and most important work of Spike Lee's career. "A+"
Brilliant adaption of a classic tale. (by abmgsson)
Some weeks ago I read somewhere a review criticizing Spike Lee for having made a movie about black people for a white audience, and perhaps that is true; I lack the qualifications to be the judge of that.I have never been to Chicago, and it's unlikely that I ever will visit there, let alone the parts referred to as 'Chi-raq'. Still here I am, in all my white, middle-aged privilege, loving this film.I love how Spike Lee has managed to adapt the classical play 'Lysistrate' into a current and urgent political context, while still managing to retain the feel of a theater play. <more>
He uses the same strategies telling the story as the original production did; the plot is outlined and commented by choirs and a storyteller turning directly into the camera.It is precisely the sort of bawdy burlesque one would have seen in ancient Greece. And in that same tradition, it also captures, with painful clarity, the tragedy, the frustration, and the despair of the people living in "Chi-raq". It is anything but subtle; Spike Lee has a keen political message and he tells it loud and clear: the violence needs to stop and the government needs to take its responsibility. He offers hints at solutions; jobs, affordable housing, health care, and education.All main characters are black, except the one man who so eloquently speaks out against the violence and the gun laws -- the Catholic priest. Why did Lee choose a white, middle-aged man for the task? Yes, I get the Catholic priests more often than not are white, but why not write a pastor or reverend instead? Idgi. And it bothers me.'Chi-raq' features two of Hollywood's best actors: brilliant Angela Bassett, who shines bright as always, and Samuel L. Jackson who plays the storyteller, whose outfits are as loud as ever a pimp's in a 70's cop-show. Wesley Snipes' character is refreshingly different from the ones we're used to see him in, and imo he's doing a good job here. Teyonah Parris is great as Lysistrate and I predict that we'll see a lot more of her in the future.The film is cinematographically brilliant. Its messy storyline, both ripe with sexual innuendos and intellectual satire with a Dickensian touch, is provocatively pop-cultural to be sure, but make no mistake, it has weight and depth enough to win an Academy Award. And imo, it should.
A controversial movie that deserves to be viewed by all. (by emansmoviereviews)
The Good:Director Spike Lee manages to find some creative ways to deliver important messages throughout the film. What's great about the messages is that they're far from being politically correct. Whether you agree with them or not, you can at the very least respect its sincerity given the gravity of the issues being discussed.It was somewhat surreal to see that many of the people in the film were actual victims of the violence that plagues Chicago. We were shown former gang members who shared their experiences, and also some of the actual mothers that have lost their children to gun <more>
violence.Across the board, there were some solid performances given. Angela Bassett portrayed a strong force and presence in her role as Miss. Helen. John Cusack excelled in his character as a fiery, activist, Chicago preacher. Jennifer Hudson captured a small portion of what it may look like to be a parent of a victim to gun violence. Teyonah Parris who plays Lysistrata does a nice job in leading the film as well. If you would like to see "The Bad" and "The Reason" why you should or should not see this film, please visit www.EmansMovieReviews.com for the entire review.
A fine piece of incendiary filmmaking that is, indeed, the double truth, Ruth (by StevePulaski)
Living in the suburbs of Illinois, for the last several years, I've been seriously fascinated by the wealth of young rappers to emerge out of the city of Chicago. This new wave of rappers, often put under the blanket classification of "drill rappers" - music that emphasizes snares, synthesizers, and cold lyrics concerning murder and violence - range from ages nine to late twenties, and the music is often used as an auditory backdrop and grave detailing of harsh realities facing black youth in Chicago today. Rappers like Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Lil Herb, Montana of 300, and Young <more>
Chop also a producer who appears in this film, as well have made careers off of emphasizing their struggle and their reality in a way that echoes much of the sentiments five young black men had in Compton back in the 1980's. Their story was transformed into a triumphant film this year about rap, gang violence, and gritty business called Straight Outta Compton. Now, the culture of drill rappers, careless bloodshed, and pervasive murders gets its due in Spike Lee's latest joint Chi-Raq.The film is a modern, farcical retelling of Aristophanes' famous story of "Lysistrata," a story about Greek women withholding sexual privileges from their men in punishment for fighting the Peloponnesian War. Revolving around a Chicago rapper named "Chi-Raq" played by Cannon , Lee focuses on the women in neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, particularly Englewood, withholding the same sexual pleasures until gang members agree to stop the violence and start spreading peace; the decision comes after a seven-year-old girl is killed with a stray bullet. Inciting this protest is the film's own Lysistrata character, played by Teyonah Parris, who was also in last year's "Dear White People." All of the women in Chicago choose to take part in this protest, especially after hearing the fiery sermon of Father Mike Corridan John Cusack, a fellow Chicago native doing his own Father Michael Pfleger impression with great passion .The result is a city divided between abstinent women and horny men, with rival gangs, the Spartans, of which Chi-Raq belongs, and the Trojans, led by a one-eyed pimp known as "Cyclops" Wesley Snipes , bitterly torn between their desire to command the streets of their city and exhale their frustrations and find some kind of romanticism in a cold environment. Meanwhile, Lysistrata and other women of the city, including Miss Helen Angela Bassett in one of the best roles I've seen from her and Irene Jennifer Hudson, another Chicago native , the mother of the murdered seven-year-old, stay true to their concept of "no peace, no piece" the latter p-word is just a tad more vulgar in the film .If you live in Chicago, then you've undoubtedly heard about the needless controversy surrounding this film since the very moment Lee had any interest in making a film about the city's gang violence. The nonsense surrounding this film's title has made Lee seem like the person who, not only came up with it the origin of the word is questionable, though the term "Chiraq, Drillinois" was made popular by Chicago rapper King Louie at the dawn of the new decade , but also somehow started all the violence in the city. This is sad because the bulk of the attention this film has been getting locally, not only seems like the only attention the film is getting I question if this film has much national appeal , but the kind of attention that simply emphasizes some sort of controversy thanks to negative remarks by Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel.Lee's film is an uproariously funny, bitterly angry, and thoroughly enjoyable farce on the very real and frightening issue of gang violence. This is incendiary filmmaking at its finest, uncommonly urgent and begging for attention without groveling for cheap pathos or an emotional response simply by tossing around words like "homicides" and "murders." Lee has made a career out of profiling race relations, but the sad thing is, from the time he started making films in the late eighties with his amazing Do the Right Thing, things in the black community have ostensibly stayed the same or gotten worse. This adds to the reason Chi-Raq bills itself and its situation as an emergency; it's sad this film even has to exist in the modern day.Being that Lee has always been a very meticulous filmmaker, using small details and both primary and secondary to embody larger themes and create more believable environments, I found myself loving little intricate things about Chi-Raq. Nick Cannon delivers a very believable performance here, despite someone not growing up in Chicago nor, to my knowledge, being affiliated with the musical culture of the region. One of the film's earliest scenes has Cannon's Chi-Raq character rapping before an energized crowd with Young Chop blaring trademark drill beats in the background. Cannon convincingly spits lyrics concerning "tooleys" guns , "lacking" being caught off-guard , the unflinching desire to kill a man's entire family, and other lyrical hallmarks, all while showcasing a strong ability to rap.Chi-Raq, given its subject matter, is playful and a lot of fun, which is a huge plus for an overarching story this grim. Make no mistake, however, for this isn't a film to lift your spirits nor does it disrespect or do anything to trivialize the violence in Chicago something that politicians and the cynical public will assert despite never buying a ticket to see the film . This is the rare case of a film taking a serious issue in a light-hearted way and creating a piece of outspoken filmmaking that emphasizes pop art principles, whilst giving its respective culture its due. You simply don't find enough films like Chi-Raq, in terms of quality, bravery, and scope, and that, indeed, is the double truth, Ruth.
School Daze revisited (by christophercharlesstewart)
I really enjoyed the film, but I readily admit that it is probably hit or miss. First, many people don't like satire, African-American satire, the black lives matter movement or Spike Lee's directing style. If you count yourself among any of these groups, you won't find this film entertaining. Stop reading now. Otherwise, here are some really nice features of the film.1. Teyonah Parris! OMG. She is beautiful inside and out. Her role is challenging. On one hand, her character reveals the very real role of minority women in the modern US civil rights movements. This aspect of the <more>
role requires a certain amount seriousness to avoid disrespecting the inspirational work of say Alicia Garza. On the other hand, her character is saving Chicago by withholding sex from her boyfriend Nick Canon . It's a comedy! Ms. Parris does an excellent job of balancing these competing aspects of the film. While there is plenty of needless booty slapping, her scenes with Jenifer Hudson and Angela Basset are moving. The explanation of black lives matter movement should be mandatory watching by some republican presidential candidates. Did I mention that Ms. Parris is beautiful? This movie could spark her career as a Hollywood diva. She reminded me of a young Halle Berry in Boomerang.2. The supporting actors are great. First and foremost, John Cusack is masterful. He delivers a fiery spirit-filled sermon as a local Catholic pastor. He does great and highlights the multi-cultural aspect BLM by frequently and poignantly invoking the term "us" to describe those affected by violence in Chicago. Second, Samuel L. is hilarious. Whenever the movie seems to get too serious or dull, his lyrics makes you laugh. Angela Basset and Dave Chappelle also have nice bits.3. The premise is nice. Not only is the film based on a Greek play, it highlights a real movement of similar context in Liberia. For some reason, the real story has been overlooked in the press.4. You will never watch another feature length film that is wholly in rhyme. That may make you happy, but enjoy the uniqueness.The movie also had downsides, including: Nick Canon can't act, Jenifer Hudson can't act and there is silly/dull ode to sex-inducing R&B music. However, those issues are forgivable. I would watch this again. I have recommended it to everyone I know.
The enormous number of low ratings here -- without a review -- is troubling. Who's afraid of Spike Lee? He's been a provocateur from day one, and when I see one of his films, I'm reminded of Faulkner's saying that all great novels are shipwrecks. All Spike Lee joints fail too, but they fail in a fabulous, provoking, brilliant manner that no other films by a living person seem to manage. Let's go back to Spike's equally brilliant and offending film Bamboozled, and the opening words, in a V/O: "Satire. A literary work in which human vice or folly is ridiculed or <more>
attacked scornfully. B. The branch of literature that composes such work. 2. Irony, derision or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice or stupidity."And that's what Spike does, at his best. And this is one of his very best: a scatter-shot, no-holds- barred, old school Greek comedy, with Jackson's "Dolmetes" as its one-man chorus -- in short, a provoking work for our times.
Today, I awoke to news that Tamir Rice, the 12 year old who was shot and killed by Cleveland Police, had his hands in his pockets at the time of the shooting. He was shot so quickly that he did not have time to take his hands out of his pockets. I felt outraged. Hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Again. I was already feeling some kind of way about Laquan McDonald who was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer in 2014, a shooting that was captured on dash cam video. I had planned on seeing Spike Lee's Chi-Raq film but after reading about Tamir Rice I knew I needed to see it sooner than later.The <more>
film begins with a graphic of the United States divided in red, white and blue colors and the country formed by images of guns. We hear the title song, rapped by Nick Cannon, with animated lyrics. Samuel L. Jackson greets us as Dolmedes, a cross between Dolemite and an ancient Greek narrator, who appears on occasion to summarize events for the audience. Dolmedes provides comic relief in a film that deals with heavy subject matter. That is not to say that his appearance is the only time we experience comedy in the film. In fact, I went in knowing that the Greek play Lysistrata was the inspiration for the film.Aristophanes, the author of Lysistrata, was known for a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy, whose works, with their pungent political satire and abundance of sexual and scatological innuendo, effectively define popular culture even today think Dr. Strangelove and in the televised buffoonery of Monty Python and Saturday Night Live .After the murder of a child named Patti by a stray bullet, a group of women led by Lysistrata organize against the on-going violence in Chicago's Southside creating a movement that challenges the nature of race, sex and violence in America and around the world. Lysistrata is instructed to research Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee who was responsible for leading a women's peace movement that included a sex strike. Of the strike, Gbowee says, "The sex strike lasted, on and off, for a few months." In real life, the strike had little or no practical effect. However, in the film the strike leads to a showdown at a National Guard armory.While it is true that many of the scenes in Chi-Raq were over the top and some reminded me of School Daze not among my favorite of Lee's movies , there were others scenes that showed the seriousness of what is going on in Chicago, around the country and the world. The film showed the seriousness of oppression or the New Jim Crow: police brutality, racial profiling, concentrated poverty, historical marginalization and mass incarceration. It conveyed the urgency of the situation, as well. There's an appearance by Dolmedes at the armory and he is joined by a gang member and police man two sides of a coin .Overall, I enjoyed Chi-Raq. Some parts made me cry and other parts made me give Spike Lee a side-eye. However, I think the film was brilliantly made, gutsy and important. For that I give it a B+/A
Best two hours I've spent in 2015 watching film.. Pure theater, outstanding performances by old-school and new school thespians. If you know anything about Chicago's history, and correlate that with current world events, then you will , if you haven't noted all ready, that Chicago Mayor's are little more than placeholders, in this city.. Gangstarrs rule... always have and most likely always will. Spike Lee has once again done a masterful job of story-telling politics du century, .. Somewhere on this set, Radio Rakeems, ghost was taking the this crew to task.. Wesley Snipes has <more>
paid his dues, but don't expect, Mo Better Blues' .. Can Angela Bassett ever not be beautiful, one of the most underrated and least pushed actresses in Hollywood, The choice between steady work for 30 years or 1 or 2 leading lady roles, an easy choice. Sam Jackson.. stop screaming.. and act.. please.. Teyonah Parris, Wow! .. beautiful.. talented, more please.. Jennifer Hudson, still an enigma, but hoping for more please.. Working with soo.... many beautiful, talented strong women must have been a dream come true or an absolute fear fest..Nick Cage. not bad..still not convinced you want to be an actor... . John Cusack, If Al Pacino sees this film, he'll know exactly where you conjured up this performance, the sermon in the church was masterful.. Not quite Al in City Hall.. but it's easy to see that you learned from the best. DB Sweeney, one of the best character actors around.. Overall a beautiful Shakespearean farce wrapped in Terrorism, engulfed and discarded by entertainment news. The conversation dismissed by a racist, willfully ignorant & backwards electorate, Fodder for an absolutely evil global system. .Spike as always.. You did the right thing.. Well.. that Vampire thing.. WT.. !.. Cheers, Valentino
A Return to Form by the Master (by lafrondaindiecinemacritic)
Chi-Raq 2015 *** 2hr.07min.Spike lee is one of the most talented and provocative directors in the past 30 years who has continuously makes films that are not only important but also the most joyous of filmmakers with a distinct vision and has made film are challenging, visually and intellectually stimulating filmmaker. Spike Lee has been given a bad rap by the media that is too outspoken for his own good, for Lee has had a difficult time recently getting his films made. He was able to get" Chi-Raq" made but Lee had to deal with a lot of controversy surrounding the film. The mayor <more>
of Chicago Emmanuel has said the naming of the film "Chi-Raq" makes Chicago look bad and makes light of the tragedy of street violence in Chicago. I will go on record, to say that the film does not make light of the black on black violence. It is a satire, but Lee is such a good filmmaker that he can be topical, irrelevant without being offensive. The film stars Teyonah Paris as Lysistrata who at the beginning of the movie is making love to her boyfriend Chi-Raq Dupree Nick Cannon that is until they hear gun shots. Fearing for her life she moves in with Chiraq mother Helen Angela Bassett they talk about her son and how can they make the city of Chicago be a worth wile city again. Helen also hates her son's choice of profession and wonders if he will ever make better choices in his life. Later, a 7 year old girl is shot down and no one wants to come forward and to tell what happened to her. The girls' Mother Jennifer Hudson demands justice for her child and pleads to anyone if they can find it in their hearts to come forward and have sympathy for her and for her dead child. Lysistrata has a solution, she and along with a bunch of her girlfriends decide to abstain sex for their men and encourages many black women to do the same publicly. These black women truly feel that they can stop the violence of black on black crime. To stop the persistent shooting within their city. Soon the word get out and is spreads like wildfire not only in the city of Chicago but to other foreign countries such as India, Brazil, Japan and France—yes even France of all places. The men in their lives have a meeting to denounce their significant others to resist their lustful charms and believe that the women will come to their scenes and come back to them no questions asks.Several powerful scenes come to mind. One being Father Mike Corridan John Cusack who chastises those people who will not come forward in finding justice for that 7 year old girl and her mother and how can we sit by and not stand up for what's happen to their great city. How the city has become a city of cowards. The community is only looking out for themselves. Another scene that is quite topical is when Lysistrata entices and older white guy, who is a lover of the south and the confederate flag to have sex with him and to tie him up and blind fold him. Only to discover that all of his friends are tried up and that they are the ones that are enslaved and not the women they enslaved hundreds of years ago. Bassett has an effective scene with an insurance agent who wants her to buy insurance for her son. Bassett is disgusted by the request. They are many good performances in the movie, especially Hudson and Bassett as the e women who are pained to see what has happened to their great city of Chicago. Samuel L. Jackson is the narrator of the story and he gives a charismatic and dramatic energy to his scenes. The main problem of the movie is that it spends a little too much time with topical humor and not enough with the character of Chiraq. We don't really get to know him on personal level. There's not real story given to him as why he chose a life of crime. However, I do recommend the movie because this film deals with issues that are important to society and asks the audience to find a solution to a problem that still goes on in not only Chicago but in America as an whole as well.