In three words: brash as fuck. I loathe me a Spike Lee Joint when I loathe it (very often) and love it hard when I love it. I pretty much love Chi-Raq hard. A strident, stridently-of-the-moment movie, stridently political. Topical. Which can evoke the death knell. Not here. It's sloppy. It's actually a hot mess. But it plays. Really plays. I can see yr most blasé hairshop denizen gettin' happily wound up into this.
THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. WAKE UP. Lee's blistering new film co-written with Kevin Willmott casts the Greek play 'Lysistrata' into modern dress in Chicago and is a no-holds barred attack on America's gun culture and instituted racism. This marks Lee's most controversial piece since 'Bamboozled' and his best effort since the nineties. One can fault Lee for meandering but his film language and intent is masterful.
"Do the Right Thing" or "Clockers" intersect with "She Hate Me" rising an unexpected Spike Lee film after so many missteps out of himself: this is literally a joint in all its meanings. A musical in potency that finds a fictional-imagery delirium permanently served by an unbridled formality, which seemed to be previously lost in bad mainstream films. A party where even the conclusive morality is respectfully mocked.
All the dialogue is in rhyme and all the fabulous choreography somehow makes this anti-gun propaganda piece quite boring and depressing in some inexplicable way. I'm not usually a fan of musicals anyway but a "message musical"? Uh-uh. Oh, and at the same exact time Samuel L. Jackson is in an anti-gun film and another one where he glorifies being gun-happy and killing for pleasure, both playing in theaters now?!?
Elements to admire: how it connects the verbal flows of classical theater and hip-hop, and tries its best to break the barrier between film artifice and the outside world (no 2015 film is more 2015). But its sense of direction is baffling. Some scenes are redundant, others come out of nowhere. The result is as loosely conceived as a student film, though that may just be a way of saying Lee is young at heart.
Uproariously funny, unabashedly angry, and a true work of pop art crossed with Chicago's brash drill-music scene. Lee has made humor, insight, sadness, and potent art in citing the "emergency" state that Chicago is in right now - an emergency that has seen more homicides and murders in the last fourteen years than American causalities in Iraq. This is brutal, unflinching, and necessary filmmaking.
Majorly underrated and misunderstood. A startling recontextualised adaptation of an Ancient Greek comedy (Lysistrata by Aristophanes). Despite some inconsistencies, the satirical style is audacious and brash. Some find Spike Lee's sermonising off putting - I encourage it.
Compared to Bamboozled, Chi-raq seems cheap and opportunistic. What happened to Spike Lee? I've been holding on longer than most, but I can't ever see him regaining his previous form. Maybe it is time to stick a fork in him and call it a day.