Damn. I really had to think about this one. (Truth, I'm still thinking.) Whenever you base a movie on a satirical play by Aristophenes - as I'm sure you were all planning to do - and that movie comments on real issues that hit close to home with a great many people in our culture, you are bound to get some harsh critiques. In fact, you would be wise to expect more than a little outrage. (POINT OF INFORMATION: You may recall, I'm not a critic, IMjustTHATDUDE.) I understand that Chi-Town rappers - Chance the Rapper (who will likely make a scene on SNL tonight), Twista, and Rhymefest (who co-wrote Jesus Walks, but didn't make half the bread off that song that Yeezy did - then again, he doesn't have to be married to a Kardashian, so... let's call that a push) - have criticized this movie with particular vigor.
No peace, no "piece." Given the times, this may well be the most serious satire I have ever seen (or read, and I was a philosophy major - forced to read some of this Aristophenes type stuff) on so many levels.
Spike Lee - Director & Co-writer
Kevin Willmott - Co-writer
Angela Bassett (Black Nativity, Olympus Has Fallen) - Miss Helen
Teyonah Parris (TV's Mad Men, Dear White People) - Lysistrata
Nick Cannon (Drumline, Day of the Dead) - Chi-Raq
Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls, Black Nativity) - Irene
Steve Harris (Takers, Minority Report) - Old Duke
Samuel L. Jackson (approx. 28% of all movies since 1963) - Dolemides (a.k.a. Dolemite)
John Cusack (The Ice Harvest, Hot Tub Time Machine) - Father Mike Corridan
DB Sweeney (Taken 2, Miracle at St, Anna) - Mayor McCloud
Harry Lennix (Man of Steel, State of Play) - Commissioner Blades
Wesley Snipes (Brooklyn Finest, Expendables 3) - Cyclops
Dave Chappelle (Chappelle's Show Dave, but on that ill Creatine diet) - Morris
IF YOU MUST KNOW
Lysistrata (Parris - who might actually be the sexiest actress alive - real talk, no joke) is with a gang-banger who goes by the name Chi-Raq (which also happens to be the nickname of Chicago). As you may know, the murders and gun related violence that happens in Chicago is UNHEARD of anywhere else but in the war zones and conflict ridden areas in places significantly East of here. So, after the accidental shooting of a little girl on the South Side of Chicago, Lysistrata - encouraged by Leymah Gbowee and the African movement that did the same - removes herself from Chi-Raq (not the city, her boo) by moving out and putting the 'snappy' on lock and enlists all the women directly and indirectly involved in that life to to do the same in order to stem or stop the violence occurring on the streets of Chicago. NOTE: Ladies, this is a terrible, horrible, no good idea. Long story shortened... the movement becomes a worldwide phenomenon and begins to have positive repercussions (depending on who you ask).
Yo, Spike... they ain't ready for this one. I'm not even sure I'm for this one. But when it is all said and done... this movie is Oscar worthy (most likely, it will not even be nominated), but it is soooo provocative and fresh that it makes all those Shakespeare in Love type flicks look hackneyed. It's too bad Nick Cannon (acting and rapping) and Wesley Snipes make it mediocre. It's smart, but preachy. The dialogue is so true, but nobody wants to admit things like... men do most of what we do for money and sex (and usually, the money thing is related to the perception that having it puts you in a position to put someone else in a position, yah feel me? no pun intended). Jennifer Hudson was great, Angela Bassett (black don't crack, for real) and she is never off, Harry Lennix is the man, John Cusack made you forget all the great comedies (Hot Tub Time Machine, Better of Dead, Grosse Pointe Blank), and Teyonah Parris... aside from being gorgeous, she should be the next IT girl (well, for chocolate women - I know Hollywood is only infatuated with lightskinneded women, but every so often there is an Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyongo, or Teyonah Parris).
Problems? Sure. 1) The dude from the Wire (the cat that played the Clay Davis) was in it with his, now famous, one word line that starts with - Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.... Well, he was in the movie for 2 minutes. 2) Nick Cannon was a humongous mis-cast. Okay, so that should be the first problem, but right now I'm going stream of consciousness. 3) The ChiRaq sex scenes had no chemistry and should have just been implied rather than as explicit as they were - one of my friends actually commented that in a certain scene it looked like Nick Cannon did had never seen a "piece" from that angle before - I found that hilarious. I'll let you all judge, but I agree. 4) Wesley Snipes was annoying; he was supposed to be a little bit, but... okay, that's a personal one. I just can't stand that idiot. 5) Sam Jackson doesn't need to be in every Spike Lee movie. Chappelle would have been better as the Narrator/Dolemides (based on Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite). SJ may sound like Rudy, but Chappelle is a comedian who would have made a much better Dolemides and made the movie feel less like a Spike Lee flick and more like the bold, experimental film that it was. 6) Back to Nick Cannon. He can't rap. Why, oh why!? Did they let him wrap for the entire intro to the movie. Bad call, Spike. I was tempted to bounce when the song wouldn't stop. The opening was literally 4 minutes of reading and listening to the lyrics that I hear were written by Nick Cannon and performed by the same, which makes you feel a bit violent and violated at the same time.
I am looking forward to watching this movie again in a few months, and again in ten years. Look, I hated She's Gotta Have It, and it still isn't a "good" movie, but there is a rawness to it that makes it stand out as good film-making and it stands alone. This movie is ahead of its time. Maybe a little too much ahead of its time, but it is worth seeing. I do enjoy movies like this and I may be in the minority, but it is worth seeing even if you are a Chicago rapper or native. Historically, meaningful satires always had difficult and serious present day issues as their subject; flawed as it may be, this is a meaning and poignant satire. Chi-Raq Spike Lee's most brave endeavor since X (the movie that should have earned Denzel and Spike the Oscars they deserved), I would recommend seeing it. It's not Dope, but Chi-Raq made me believe in Spike Lee as a filmmaker again. Oddly enough, some of the people I know who hated this would still buy a movie ticket for Tyler Perry poo-poo.
IMTHATDUDE gives Chi-Raq: 3
5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!
4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.