Spike Lee has done it again. He has put a modern-day spin on the Greek play, ‘Lysistrata’ by Aristophanes. The result is ‘Chi-Raq’, which released Friday, December 4, 2015 in theaters nationwide. The movie features a great cast including principles Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, and Wesley Snipes. Samuel L. Jackson narrates as Dolemedes and tries to connect the dots of the movie’s story.
Lysistrata (played by Parris) lives in a neighborhood, similar to many urban areas, plagued with gangs and gun violence. She is in love with Cannon’s character, Demetrius Dupree aka Chi-Raq, who is a wannabe rapper and Spartan gang leader. In their feuding, the leader of the rivaling Trojans gang named Cyclops (Snipes’ character), sets fire to her apartment, leaving her to move in with Miss Helen (played by Angela Bassett).
Miss Helen has had her share of calamity through the death of her own daughter by a stray bullet. When another innocent child named Patti is killed, the community reacts with a no snitching response. Her mother, Ms. Irene (Jennifer Hudson), pleads for someone to come forward and identify the killer since her daughter was gunned down in broad daylight.
Under the direction of Miss Helen, Lysistrata goes to the library to research a female activist from Africa. Once her mind is opened to a new concept, Lysistrata and other women in the neighborhood (who are also involved with gangbangers) decide to withhold sex from the organization leaders until they resolve the rampant violence that is plaguing their communities and live in peace. The ladies organize and ultimately take over the Chicago armory. They strive to create an environment for change.
Themes in this movie revolve around love, family, respect and unity.
Producer and director Spike Lee makes an analogous relationship between Chicago, the setting for this movie, and Iraq. Both are ‘war zones’ due to the amount of violence that exists in each. This movie is not for the faint at heart because of the level of violence, the explicit sex scenes and the graphic language. In the telling of this rhyming satirical story, Lee not only points out the violence that is raging unchecked in many urban settings, but also demonstrates the power of one to impact relationships, families, communities and subsequently, the world.
The movie has a few tear-jerking moments and a few humorous ones. There are some contemporary as well as historical references to people, mostly African Americans who became victims of violence.
It is apparent that Lee intends ‘Chi-Raq’ to be a wake-up call to the public as he includes lots of statistical data about the numbers and numbers of people who have been murdered on the American inner city streets. The movie, however, does fall flat in some places.
The movie theater was quiet as the story unfolded on the big screen. After the movie, several people spoke about how they felt about the movie. One person in the ladies’ room said she would give ‘Chi-Raq’ three stars. She said she felt Lee was trying to put a message out there and put an idea into people’s heads to stop the violence.
Mr. Johnnie (last name withheld upon request) said he thought the acting was good and would give the movie three stars as well. He said it was good to Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes together again, even though their story lines did not connect.
Suzanne (declined to give last name) said she was not an avid movie goer, but would give the movie three stars also. She said she was not a fan of Spike Lee, but said the message was for people to stop the violence and the gang killings.
‘Chi-Raq’ is rated R for mature audiences, and is sure to be controversial in light of recent appeals for stronger gun laws in this country.
For more information, check out the movie’s website. To watch the official movie trailer, click here.