At least Spike Lee is trying. So the city of Chicago has gotten to be so violent that a number of residents have stopped calling it by its original moniker, and have chosen to start calling it Chi-Raq (a combination of Chicago and Iraq, if you didn’t gather). This is an adaptation of the Greek play Lysistrata, only placed in this modern setting, and it is about the women of Chicago abstaining from their men until they choose to stop with all of the violence. I will give this movie credit for at least one thing: it’s different from any other movie you’ve ever seen. I have yet to see the vast majority of the classic Spike Lee joints like Do the Right Thing or Malcolm X, and I’m sure that will be rectified soon enough as my wife and I are making our way through the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, but I do at the very least have a respect for him as a filmmaker, even when his projects aren’t wholly successful like this one here.
At least you can say that there’s nothing quite like this movie.
Now this was released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming, and I suppose this is Amazon’s attempt to be like Netflix; while Netflix released an Oscar caliber movie in Beasts of No Nation, getting the rights to next film from an art-house director like Spike Lee makes total sense. What you should know about this prior to going in is that it is based on a Greek play, which means that this comes with everything that you would expect; yes, that means that characters speak in rhyming verse. That said, it’s not like they are using olden language, and given the urban nature of the majority of characters, you have slang and swearwords thrown in the mix. It makes for this crazy, bizarre and unique experience, and it is most definitely an experiment, but I don’t think it is one that really works.
Sam Jackson chews as much scenery as you would expect in the role of the narrator of this story.
There are scenes that work to this, and Chi-Raq does have a good message of wanting to stop violence of all kinds. There are also these strange musical numbers with choreography spattered throughout, and again, I can’t stress how unique this is. It could have used a lot of tightening up though, and the utilizing of the rhyming verse sometimes leads to clunky and awkwardly executed scenes. It doesn’t 100% succeed or even 50% succeed for that matter, but I do award points for at least trying to put together something new.
Chi-Raq (2015) **1/2
– Critic for Hire