Movie Review: CHI-RAQ. Directed by Spike Lee

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chi-raqCHI-RAQ (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Spike Lee

Starring: Nick Cannan, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett

Review by Gibert Seah

CHI-RAQ, the film’s title is made up of the first and last syllables of the cities of Chicago and Iraq respectively and used s the title for the reason that more people have been killed in Chicago than the Americans in the Iraq war with the result of south side Chicago (the film’s setting) being declared a war zone.

The film, a mix of satire and musical contains lots of song and dance numbers with a very strong message. The message is to save the babies and do away with guns. The film begins with the death of a little girl from a stray bullet. The black women of Chicago have had enough. The women of the two gangs, Spartan and Trojan (their meeting is plain hilarious) decide to withhold sex to prevent their husbands from fighting. The local priest, Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack) steps up to help the fight.

One has to be able to bare Lee’s preachiness. And Lee can be the most preachy at his most preachiness. This is illustrated in a segment in which the priest preaches his preachy sermon to a congregation, in which part of his sermon is repeated so that nothing can be left out.

If the film’s dialogue sounds Shakespearean, it should be noted that the script, written by Lee and Kevin Willmott is based on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the classical Greed comedy play in which women withhold sex as a weapon to prevent their husbands from going to war. The film is framed with a spritely delivered narrative by no less than Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson has never been in a film in which he has not uttered he m***f**er word, and this film is no exception.

An impressive cast includes old Lee collaborators like Jackson, Angela Bassett, Wesley Snipes (as Cyclops) and new ones like Jennifer Hudson, Teyonah Parris and Nick Cannon playing the lead role.

CHI-RAQ is everything one can expect from the controversial Spike Lee. His film touted controversy from the film’s music supervisor Kendricks who got fired for charging a fee to musicians for having their music considered on the soundtrack to Lee calling the Chicago mayor a bully for demanding the film’s name be changed or the city’s tax credits not apply for the film. Love it or hate it, this latest joint by Spike Lee is unforgettable.

Music and dance play a big part in Lee getting his message across. The first segment has a song played loud with subtitles for those unfamiliar with the south side Chicago accent. But the film with its message is catered towards the adult black folk, judging from the steamy sex scenes and language. Perhaps the message should also be told to the younger teens and pre-teens who eventually become the violent criminals depicted in the film.

The $15 million budget film has already grossed $2.7 million in a limited release in December of 2015. For all the good intentions and huge effort put in by Lee and his gang, the film hopefully, will do well in its wider release now.



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