Reader Rating (Rate Here): [Total: 3 Average: 4/5]
Directed By: Spike Lee
Cast: Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Angela Bassett, Wesley Snipes, John Cusack, Jennifer Hudson
Chi-Raq is a satire on the gang violence and gun craziness that is prevalent in America. It is a musical drama in its purest form where every dialogue is like a verse from a poem. Chi-Raq is based on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata: a Greek comedy play where women withhold sex from their husbands as punishment for fighting in the Peloponnesian War. The word Chi-Raq is a portmanteau of Chicago and Iraq which is a term used by the residents to liken the area to a war zone.
Chi-Raq is based in Chicago, a hot bed of territorial war between two rival gangs: Spartans and Trojan. Demetrius (Nick Cannon) nicknamed as Chi-Raq leads the Spartans and Cyclops (Wesley Snipes) with an eye patch leads Trojans. Whole town is under siege because of the frequent killings but nobody testifies. Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris), Demetrius’ girlfriend grows disillusioned with the violence. Thus on advice of Helen Worthy (Angella Bassett) she starts a movement by convincing other women to abstain sex with their husbands in exchange for peace. The movement spreads like a wildfire across the world. Whether they achieve peace forms the rest of the musically satirical journey.
Chi-Raq is relevant in today’s world where America is plagued by gun violence and the government not doing anything to curb the gun sales. As John Cusack says, the government is in the pocket of American Rifle Association. Chi-Raq shows that stray bullets kill children on a daily basis but the biggest problem is that people have made it a part of their life. A gun shot sound doesn’t shock people anymore and because of the fear of retaliation, the killer walks free. Even the policemen are afraid of the gangs.
Chi-raq is a protest against the system, against the senseless violence and the state’s apathy. It is a protest against the vicious circle of violence begetting violence. Lysistrata’s movement towards non violence and truth is almost Gandhian in its ideology which has a slogan- “No peace, no pussy” and a whole marching song of its own. The dialogues are unfiltered, sometimes crude but always rhyming. It is amazing that Spike Lee after so many years of making movies, still has such different ideas. He is commendable for such a bold approach. It has a #metoo parallel too: Chicago women inspire women in different parts of the world to stage similar protests. It is a true satire and an ingenious one at that- it is hard hitting and blunt in sending out its message but at the same time it will shock you in some places and make you laugh out loud in others.
But it has its flaws: there is a lack of action on the streets to make the audience understand the gravity of the situation hence you are never really into it. The movie rushes to the main theme without giving time to build up towards it. Also the turnaround of Chi-Raq is sudden and doesn’t do justice to the movie. Stuff just springs up here and there, the movie lacks coherence and the frequent allusions to sex(or the lack of it) becomes repetitive fast.
As for the acting chops, I liked Jennifer Hudson as Irene, whose daughter’s killing sparks off the movement. Her scene when she washes the blood off the pavement will really move you. I also liked John Cusack’s performance, limited as it may be, his sermon is hard hitting, unfiltered and will tell you exactly what is wrong with America. Teyonah Parris as Lysistrata is a woman worth giving up violence for.
Watch Chi-Raq as it is a very different movie, one of a kind actually. It is debatable and shocking consequently the theme will stay with you for a long time. Watch and give us your rating above.