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Film Review: Inventive ‘Chi-raq’ is an Authentic Plea for Sanity

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CHICAGO – A spotlight on Chicago, in the context of guns and violence, is never a good thing for the overall community. But using Chicago as a metaphor for all violent insanity, and making a plea for peace, is the purpose of director Spike Lee’s new film, “Chi-raq.”

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

It’s based on the Lysistrata effect, the ancient Greek play in which women withhold sex until their men stop war. Spike Lee takes that symbolism to the edge and through his unique cinema worldview. The film amps it up, becoming an original mash-up of Spike’s greatest hits – “She’s Gotta Have It,” “School Daze,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X” – all bursting at the seams with energy, creativity, audacity and at times pointed satire. This is Spike Lee’s best film in years, all because he went back to being Spike Lee, provocateur.

Chi-Raq the character (Nick Cannon) is a rapper, and as the film opens he is entertaining an audience with his beats. Gunfire erupts, as Chi-raq is also revealed to be the head of a Chicago gang (Purple Colors), who are warring with their rivals, headed by Cyclops (Wesley Snipes, Orange Colors). As tensions and gunfire escalate, a nine-year-old girl is caught in the crossfire, devastating her mother Irene (Jennifer Hudson).

The Englewood neighborhood community is enraged by the constant barrage, as emphasized at the girl’s funeral by Father Mike (John Cusack). The girlfriend of Chi-raq, Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris), decides to fight the fire with a sex strike, and her efforts finally gets the attention of the warriors. She takes over a national guard armory to further her plea, getting the city government and the world involved, as she her simple slogan reads, “no peace? [then] no piece.”

“Chi-raq” has a limited release on December 4th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Teyonah Parris, Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, D.B. Sweeney and Dave Chapelle. Written by Spike Lee and Kevin WIllmott. Directed by Spike Lee. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Chi-raq”

Teyonah Parris
Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) in ‘Chi-raq’
Photo credit: Lionsgate

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Chi-raq”

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