In Theatres: 
Dec 04, 2015
Running Time: 
118 minutes

Spike Lee is never one to shy away from discussing race, gang violence, crime, and other hot-button political issues in his films. Chi-Raq is no exception, which has already garnered controversy over its naming association between Chicago and Iraq. It’s a satire of sorts, retelling the Classical Greek comedy Lysistrata, but deals with an extremely timely subject matter.


As the war between rival gangs the Spartans and the Trojans escalates in the streets of Chicago, many innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfire. Gang violence does not discriminate, and 11-year-old Patti is gunned down during a drive-by shooting one afternoon. Fed up with all the senseless killing, Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) informs her boyfriend, rapper and gang leader Chi-raq (Nick Cannon), that she and all the other women in the community will be withholding sex until peace can be made.


Chi-Raq is one of the most interesting films I’ve seen this year. The main thing you’ll notice about the film is that the majority of the dialogue is in rhyme. It gives it a strong Shakespearean vibe. Samuel L. Jackson narrates the film, speaking directly to the audience. The whole thing feels like one of Shakespeare’s plays with all its various acts and recaps/revelations by Jackson, who appears periodically throughout. The dialogue was my favorite aspect of the film. Not everything rhymed, but there’s still a constant flow to the script that works very well.\


Where Chi-Raq falters is in its presentation. It’s supposed to be a satire of sorts, yet it deals with a heavy subject matter that doesn’t quite fit the mold. It’s main theme of “No peace, no pussy” feels clumsy. Yes, sex can be very powerful, but presenting it as this ultimate weapon for world peace is somewhat ludacris. It undermines the much more serious issues the film is trying to present about gang violence.


The film does a good job at bringing these issues to the forefront and is very timely as it mentions the various struggles with police violence, #BlackLivesMatter, and other movements that are currently going on in the black community. It’s a shame that all it does is mention them, however, and doesn’t explore into more detail of what’s happening. Instead it focuses mostly on the sex strike. There’s definitely a larger discussion to be had here, but all Chi-Raq does is maybe get the ball rolling.


Chi-Raq has a strong message with good intentions, but its storyline is so absurd that it gets in the way of presenting them. Spike Lee has always created a dialogue with his films and while Chi-Raq is far from Do The Right Thing or Malcolm X it will definitely have people talking.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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