Chi-Raq review

★★ | Chi-Raq

Chi-Raq review

Chicago has such a high murder rate that from 2003 to 2011 there were more murders there than in the same years 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 and Iraq).

What we do get instead is a musical drama where woman ‘take away the pussy’ from the men in order to stop them from using their guns. This is triggered by the death of a local girl who is the daughter of a church going religious mum (Jennifer Hudson). This in turns 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 unrecognisable 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 armoury in downtown Chicago (the scene where Lysistrata seduces the general in charge of the armoury 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 crisis that’s taking place in his city, and, of course, right before a re-election.

Lysistrata rallies her girlfriends to do the same, and they all band together to declare ‘no peace, no pussy’ while holed up in an armoury in downtown Chicago (the scene where Lysistrata seduces the general in charge of the armoury 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 crisis that’s taking place in his city, and, of course, right before a re-election.

It’s the women who take centre stage in this movie; they’re sexy and hot and all of them seem to be wearing 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 crises that are televised live for everyone to see. Really stupid stuff there.

It’s quite misogynistic. It all comes to a head when Lysistrata and Demetrius have a sort of sex-off to resolve the crises that are televised live for everyone to see. Really stupid stuff there.

It all comes to a head when Lysistrata and Demetrius have a sort of sex-off to resolve the crisis that is televised live for everyone to see. Really stupid stuff there.

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Spike Lee has a voice and the talent to make a film that could’ve highlighted the problems and issues dealing with 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 that was killed by a stray bullet, and John Cusack as the local priest who has to preside over the many funerals that take place in the black neighbourhood.

The music is excellent and the locations and cinematography are all first rate. Samuel Jackson is ridiculous as a narrator who pops up every now and then wearing very bright coloured suits – his role is a distraction that doesn’t really help the film’s narrative. Chi-raq was released in US 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 its cost back – deservedly so.

 

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