Movie Review: CHI-RAQ


The new Spike Lee film fails miserably to deliver it's message about gun violence in Chicago

Chicago has such a high murder rate that from 2003 to 2011 there were more murders there than in the same time period in the Iraq war. On one Independence Day, 55 people were murdered. And in one year alone, 400 school kids were shot. With stats like this, a film with a message about violence and murder in the Windy City is seriously needed. But don’t expect it from Spike Lee’s new film called 'Chi-raq' (Chicago - Iraq).

What we get instead is a musical drama where woman ‘take away the pussy’ from their men in order to stop them from using their guns (and shooting innocent bystanders). This is triggered by the death of a local girl who is the daughter of a church going religious momma (Jennifer Hudson). This in turn leads Lysistrata (yes, that’s her character’s name - and she's played brilliantly by Teyonah Parris), to withhold sex from her boyfriend Demetrius, whose nickname is ‘Chi-raq (a surprisingly good turn by an unrecognizable and very buffed up Nick Cannon a/k/a the former Mr. Mariah Carey). Lysistrata rallies her girlfriends to do the same, and they all band together to declare ‘no peace, no pussy’ while holed up in an armory in downtown Chicago (the scene where Lysistrata seduces the general in charge of the armory has got to be the most ridiculous scene this year). This sex strike makes the men crazy, they’re missing their women, and even the mayor’s wife joins the strike, causing him (played by D.B. Sweeney) to intervene in this major crises that’s taking place in his city, and, of course, right before a re-election.

It’s the women who take center stage in this movie; they’re sexy and hot and all of them wear very little clothing, and what they do wear is extremely provocative - tight fitting tops and shorts - with padlocks over their crotches (yes, for real). It’s quite misogynistic. It all comes to a head when Lysistrata and Demetrius have a sort of sex-off to resolve the entente which is televised live for everyone to watch on television. Really stupid stuff there.

Spike Lee has a voice and the talent to make a film that could’ve highlighted the problems and issues about Chicago’s murder rate, but instead he’s written, produced and co-wrote a satire/comedic farce that can’t decide whether it’s a musical, a tragi-comedy, or something so surreal and stupid that you can’t believe that it's is unfolding right before your very eyes. The cast is first rate, including Angela Bassett as a woman who had a daughter who was killed by a stray bullet, and John Cusak as the local white priest who has to preside over the many funerals that take place in his black hood. The music is excellent and the locations and cinematography are all first rate. Samuel Jackson, however, is ridiculous as a narrator who pops up every now and then wearing very bright colored suits - his role is a distraction that doesn’t really help the film’s narrative. ‘Chi-raq’ was released in U.S. Cinemas in 2015 and was a commercial bomb, making only $2.7 million from a budget of $15 million. It’s a film that’s likely to recoup it’s costs back - deversedly so.

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