Chi-Raq (2015)
January 19, 2016 7:16 AM - Subscribe

A modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago.

Matt Zoller Seitz ( "The movie is angry and horrified and mournful but also warm, sensual, life affirming, and so blisteringly funny that critics and political commentators are sure to blast it as distasteful."

Richard Brody (New Yorker): "It’s about justice itself, and the very nature of an American society in which the complex of evils and injustices that manifests itself in terms of gang violence might be resolved. It’s a tall order—and one that Lee and Willmott fulfill boldly and brilliantly. They do so with a vast range of emotions, from frantic comedy to righteous fury, that is constantly underpinned, as if by the deep pedal point of an organ, with a weary and bottomless mourning perched on the edge of tears."

Sam C. Mac (Slant): "The film's impressively eclectic screenplay (two-parts rapped rhyme, one-part poetic prose, lots of purposeful, rhythm-breaking slang throughout) touches on the concept of the new Jim Crow, identifying the chauvinistic pattern of disrespect toward black women by socially marginalized, culturally impotent black men, and indicting the societal indifference to black-on-black crime committed outside white neighborhoods—a sentiment delivered by Cusack's white pastor."

Jordan Hoffman (The Guardian): "Is Chi-Raq preachy? Absolutely. But it is never boring. It is earnest and heartfelt and, at times, funny and very, very, very sexy. Don’t be misled: this movie is dripping in style. Even the talky bits are draped in Terrance Blanchard’s music, and those who aren’t accustomed to unique, adventuresome film-making are likely to make a sour face."

Spike Lee: "It is possible to address a very serious subject matter and still have humor. I’ve done it before. Do the Right Thing was serious as hell. It was so serious you can still show that film today—it’s still contemporary. But Do the Right Thing was also funny as a motherfucker. Another example—one of my favorite films, one of my favorite filmmakers: Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove. What’s more serious than the planet’s destruction? But that movie was hilarious. There are many examples—music, plays, novels, movies—where humor has been injected into very serious subject matter."
posted by sapagan (4 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I loved this movie. It's perhaps the boldest movie to have come out in years. Yes, it's preachy, but it feels very fresh, as if they got the funding, pointed the cameras and ran with it. It feels like a modern (and much better) Putney Swope.
posted by Catblack at 7:13 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I’m not much of a Spike Lee fan; I’ve seen a three of movies including this one. And it took me awhile to get what Lee was doing. Not every scene worked, but I really liked the movie overall. It was something unique. The flow of the dialogue was beautiful, most of the time.

As a modern take on a 2500 year old play, it was fantastic. But I think it didn’t work as far as Lee wanting to spotlight the violence in Chicago and demand action. I think the way it genre-jumped back-and-forth from drama to comedy to morality play fuddled the impact he was trying to convey.

Looking at the audience reaction, the Amazon reviews are split down the middle, it's got a 5.6/10 on IMDB, and a 56% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s pretty low. It looks like a lot of viewers thought the movie’s tone was disrespectful to the situation in Chicago. In first few scenes, I thought the movie was going to closer in tone to The Wire, but then it way in another direction.
posted by riruro at 6:57 PM on January 23, 2016

This movie is possibly the worst movie ever made. It's like Spike Lee was trying to channel the spirit of Bill Cosby and mix it with David Duke. While it occasionally dips into analysis, there is way too much focus on black men being shitty to black women in the most stereotypical way possible. And yeah, you're supposed to focus on the fact that the women are right, but it kind of glamorizes the shit-talking in a way that's really gross. It's like how the awful racist general is cracking awful racist jokes about Obama, and you know you're supposed to hate him, but at the same time, those shitty racist jokes about Obama just lie there like a turd in the middle of the movie. Not to mention the whole "It's on women to reform shit". I love Lysistrata, but I feel like it's not really well adapted to modern times when we are supposed to already accept that women have equality and don't owe men sex. And especially not for women of color who already get expected to bear the world on their shoulders.
posted by corb at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I just watched this last night. I thought it was brilliant. That Spike hewed so closely to Greek stage direction, with the chorus and narrator....genius. The verse dialogue was amazing. I laughed, I cried, I needed a few minutes after the film to compose myself. Even with some of the sexual content being more than I think my 13 year old will have reference to understand, I will let him watch this film. I think this film will be misunderstood by the vast majority, but I think it's probably the best thing Spike Lee has done.

Lysistrata is one of my favorite plays, and I cannot imagine a better retelling.

That said, I have no real exposure to gangs or that culture. I would very much like to know what the reaction to the film is from the community it attempts to portray.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:50 AM on February 12, 2016

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