December 07, 2015

Chi-Raq (2015)

Chi-Raq (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: Spike Lee
Country: USA

Movie Review: Spike Lee goes histrionic in “Chi-Raq”, a modern adaptation of the Aristophanes’ Greek play, ‘Lysistrata’, here transferred to a problematic Chicago. It seems that the film didn’t please the Chicagoans who, during two hours, had to watch the women from their city going into a sex strike that aims to stop the local gangsters from shooting one another and kill innocent people in the streets. Through the lame slogan ‘No peace, No pussy!’, a group of women, led by the activist Miss Helen (Angela Bassett), decide to punish the dopey thugs and bring justice to the killing of a little girl who was playing in the surroundings of her home. This cowardly act shocked the neighborhood, including the lively Lysterata (Teyonah Parris), who becomes a fierce booster of the movement despite being the girlfriend of Demetrius (Nick Cannon), a rapper and violent gang leader, who carries a difficult childhood on his shoulders. Funny here and there, the film carries a strong message and empowers a feminist facet that is much welcomed, but not everything runs smoothly in Mr. Lee’s manifesto. There’s an annoying cheesiness and a tricky coziness in this approach that feel so intense that is what we most remember after the credits roll rather than the favorable moments. “Chi-Raq” is a volatile, dramatic comedy that manages to be classified as watchable only because of the pacifist banner it holds. Mr. Lee, who co-wrote with Kevin Willmott, doesn’t convince me since “Inside Man” and keeps stumbling in the execution regardless the potentiality of the plots. It happened with “Red Hook Summer” and “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus”, not to speak of the unnecessary American remake of the memorable Korean version of “Old Boy”. Failing to properly amuse, the film still takes some time to show off Dolmedes, played by an expansive Samuel L. Jackson, exhibiting different fancy suits while commenting on the problems that daily fustigate the city. The speech lines took the form of rhymes, which despite adding some more rhythm didn’t save the film from being a flamboyant caprice. My favorite scene was a delirious sermon given by John Cusack, who plays a fervent preacher fed up of burying innocent victims. It’s a pity that Chi-Raq’s urgent message, even if sometimes strident and loud, is turned into an unruly satire.

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