CHI-RAQ Review - Spike Lee’s Timely Gangland Gun Violence Pic Hits a Bulls Eye

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CHI-RAQ, from Spike Lee and Roadside Attractions, presents a poignant, and unfortunately timely, tale on gun violence using Chicago’s South Side as ground zero in America’s newest internal war, a deadly plague, which daily and indiscriminately kills.

Directed by Lee, CHI-RAQ stars Angela Bassett, Nick Cannon, Samuel L. Jackson, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes and John Cusack, with Harry Lennix, D.B Sweeney. Steve Harris, David Patrick Kelly, Dave Chappelle, Anya Engel-Adams, Ebony Joy, Michelle Mitchenor, Felicia Anthony and La La Anthony. CHI-RAQ was co-written by Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott.

CHI-RAQ opens with a voice over introduction, in rap, of the current gun violence and killings compared to deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and over the same time period the deaths on the Southside outnumber almost double the lives lost in combat, hence the name CHI-RAQ. Welcome to the new frontier.

As CHI-RAQ cuts away from the rap intro, Samuel L. Jackson appears as Dolmedes, who continually breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience. His rhyming storyline acts as a segway into the next scenes. CHI-RAQ is completed in verse, and based on Aristophanes’ Greek satirical masterpiece “Lysistrata,” written more than 2,500 years ago.

The film cuts to the club, were a heavily tattooed Demtrius “CHI-RAQ” Dupree, played convincingly by Nick Cannon, is taking the stage, rapping to the crowd about the reign of the Spartans, when shooters open up and once again, gun violence takes over.

CHI-RAQ presents a raw, honest, picture of life, every day, in many cities across America. The Southside is where this gang life was vividly portrayed and with the rise in gang and gun violence the battle ground where the message rang most true.

Teyonah Parris who plays the modern Lysistrata, opposite Nick Cannon’s CHI-RAQ, is vivid and fills the screen with her presence.

Life is a daily war between the gangs, in this case The Trojans lead by Wesley Snipes, Cyclops, and The Spartans, and caught in between the gangs and the bullets are the innocent, the hopeful and the church.

Angela Basset graces the screen as Ms. Helen, the next door neighbor to Lysistrata, and the first person to understand the violence that is ripping apart the neighborhood. Where Lysistrata lives in the naïve world of love will conquer all and her man, CHI-RAQ, will one day change, the sad reality is that he is more likely to be killed and she the witness to his funeral.

Hope continues to dim as a child, another child, a seven year old, Patti, is caught in the cross fire and again killed by a stray bullet. Jennifer Hudson plays Irene, Patti’s mother, and irreparably wounded by the murder of her child becomes another voice in the wilderness calling for change. Her performance was resonating and moving as she cleaned her child’s blood from the street, her tears, water and blood mixing again.

The funeral brings the neighborhood together, with John Cusack as Father Mike Corridan, and honestly, having attended “church” in my life, the performance captured the truth. Without having been a preacher he had the “voice” and not the tele-evangelist voice that often overshadows, negates or creates mockery. Most genuine preachers don’t find their voice for some time. I was impressed at his performance.

With the church important in the black community it was important for the films credibility to have in that pivotal role someone who could present it with authenticity.

Of course, no film from Spike Lee would be complete if it weren’t brutally truthful. CHI-RAQ presents more than the frightening life of gangland living, which to some, is living it also presents the loving, which is intensely presented.

After these heightened moments hit the audience, the film settles into the Second Act, which is the Sex Strike. Led by Ms.Helen and Lysistrata, the women of the neighborhood decide the only way to end the gangland violence is to, in proper terms squeeze the men through sectorial sanctions, in other words “No Peace, No Pussy,” starving them of the one thing the men want more than guns or money.

CHI-RAQ is obviously a film where raw, candid and graphic language of life, outside of what some consider reality, is truthfully presented.

The Second Act of CHI-RAQ becomes about the Sex Strike with various peak measurements of sexual depravations  popping up as the women were able to hold out for three months; the men however were not handling the pressure as well and were willing to resort to rape to get the women back in line.

Intermittently Spike presents life, after the shooting, stuck in a wheel chair, unable to walk, paralyzed with colostomy bags, unable to stand, having to wear diapers and the psychological weight of truly, genuinely believing, that the odds of them living until they are 20 are slim.

CHI-RAQ is a solid winner for Spike Lee. He has, once again, brought his brand of filmmaking into a community that has no choice but to accept his vision in reality is an authentic depiction of life.

Spike Lee is a brilliant director. If you are interested in life in killadelphia, or CHI-RAQ, South Central or any of the many inner cities that erupt into the real frontier

CHI-RAQ is playing in select cities and is a must see!

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