Chi-Raq (2015) Movie Review: A Call to Arms (and Thighs, and…)

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for each appearance of Samuel Jackson’s Dolemedes

Take a Drink: several times during John Cusack’s extended monologue/sermon

Do a Shot: at the “Whistlin’ Dick” scene. Make it a generous shot, too

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Bill Arceneaux (A Toast) –

Chi-Raq might just be Spike Lee’s magnum opus, in a similar way to how Southland Tales is Richard Kelly’s. Depending on your perspective, this could be taken in a negative way, considering the reception and consensus of Southland. I, for one, still feel that movie is a mess. A fascinatingly bold and anarchic mess. It’s a film that probably won’t ever be duplicated, because it could only come from the mind of Kelly. Good or bad, for better or worse, it’s a vision to behold.

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For better or worse

Also like Kelly, Spike is best when he has something to say – which he often does (read Bill Leon’s recent editorial). Both Kelly and Spike, when fired up, are about as subtle as Thor’s hammer being swung at a mountain. They are loud, screaming at the top of their lungs, but never, interestingly enough, obnoxious.

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Well… Chi-Raq isn’t obnoxious, anyways. I swear.

A Toast

The film is a stylistic hybrid, spoken in rhyme, that skips genres like a child might skip rope. Musical, farce, heavy drama, political statement, adaptation – all are covered, with the seams between very visible. However, despite this blend being a bit chunky, these jumps of tone never feel off or wrong. It’s almost as if we’re channel or browser surfing, going back and forth from one atmosphere to another. Irreverent doesn’t even begin to describe the movie.

“No Peace!? No P***y!!” becomes a global mantra, as the classic play Lysistrata unfolds in a multi faceted and cohesively held together epic. I was lucky enough to watch Michael Moore’s latest Where to Invade Next, where he suggests that more women ought to be elected to public office. And why not? Their maternal instincts and centuries of observing from the sidelines would be invaluable. Through street level disobedience that turns the world upside down, Spike Lee continues Aristophanes’ satirical yet accurate message that, behind every potentially great man, there is, indeed, a strong woman.

Local gang warfare is but a stepping stone here for conversations ranging from economic disparity and depression to racist political policies and abuse. Characters will freely offer up their opinions on the state of things, appearing to be too high up on a pedestal at first, but actually grounded to the Earth with truth. When all these things are happening around you, your community, and your planet, anytime is a right time to discuss. The fire in this movie’s belly is searing.

Chi-Raq never plays it safe. It goes for broke in every moment, with each scene something to chew on without ever being scene chewing. Well, rarely scene chewing. It’s a movie that definitely won’t be replicated, as few are as ballsy as Spike Lee. Why is that? Why aren’t more filmmakers angry? More vision, please.

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Verdict

It’s no wonder that Chi-Raq is causing quite the stir. It’s a sensational presentation of an all too familiar tragedy, with an aggressively hopeful and wildly imaginative edge. People will get mad, and they should. People will cry, and that’s natural. People will feel better, and that’s an understatement. Spike Lee took some weight off of our collective shoulders and turned it into fuel. For debate? For protest? For knowledge? For action.

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Support me on RecurrencyBill Arceneaux

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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