Chi-Raq - Review
I recently watched the movie Chi-Raq and enjoyed it on the whole. If you've yet to see it, it’s a modern-day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes. Contrary to its origins, it's set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. Directed by Spike Lee, so you know it will be controversial in the eyes of the mainstream. However, it really is just bringing the truth of the violence on the streets to audiences in a new way.
Part of me didn't like the use of rhyming dialogue. I presume that was there to bring the flavor of the original. A large part of me was screaming for the movie to address the topic seriously. What I realized, however, is that the often-comedic approach stopped the film being too serious. Especially the monologues by Samuel L. Jackson. The comedy kept it accessible to a whole bunch of people. And perhaps the best lessons learned are through humor.
Two performances stood out for me and they were by no means the main characters. Jennifer Hudson's grief over her slain child was the most moving. John Cusack as Father Mike Corridan was the most powerful. In some ways, it felt odd to see a white preacher in a story about gun violence on the streets of Chicago but hearing him preach was totally different. For me, it’s one of John Cusack's strongest scenes, ever. Scenes like these from Cusack and Hudson brought the gravitas the film needed to bring home its message about gun violence. After all, the main plot device was that all of Chi-Raq's women were abstaining from sex until the men gave up their guns and violent ways.
Interesting. I actually didn't like Aristophanes's Lysistrata much, so it's conceivable to me that Spike might actually improve upon the original in his adaptation! Anyway, it's an audacious experiment, and I think it suits Spike Lee as a director... it's his kind of thing, kind of like his Malcolm X... I thought, What's he making this whole thing into a dance movie for? and then I realized it was more true to Malcolm's own autobiography than what you'd expect from a Hollywoodization of his life. Malcolm's life was a life, not just politics, so why shouldn't his movie reflect that?
Agreed, I liked the Malcolm X movie to. Spike Lee does some great movies, and throw Denzel in there too for good measure and it was sure to be great.