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Film Review: 'Chi-Raq' Lee's Most Important Film Since 'X'

by Todd A. Smith

 

(Photo Credit: Roadside Attractions)

 

Spike’s Most Important Joint 


 

Just when I thought that filmmaker Justin Simien (“Dear White People”) had claimed the throne of Black satires from the likes of Robert Townsend and Spike Lee, one of the dons of Black cinema (Lee) steps back up to the throne and makes all of his subordinates kiss the ring.


While “Dear White People” provided social commentary on Black America to White Americans, “Chi-Raq” provides social commentary on Black America to other Black Americans.


“Chi-Raq” is very profound, timely, important, hilarious, lyrical and rhythmic.  And it is Lee’s most important joint (he refers to his films as joints) since “Malcolm X” in 1992.


In mainstream American society, the Black Lives Matter movement has faced criticism from conservative circles for only focusing on White-on-Black crime, while seemingly ignoring Black-on-Black crime.


While mainstream media might be ignoring the Black community’s efforts to stop Black-on-Black crime, Lee’s film educates all who do not know that there have always been efforts to stop Black-on-Black crime.  They simply have not listened all of these years.


Chi-Raq (Nick Cannon) is an up-and-coming Chicago rapper and leader of the Spartan street gang.


Many of his rhymes “diss” his rivals, the Trojan street gang and their leader Cyclops (Wesley Snipes).


When a shooting erupts at a Chi-Raq concert and an innocent young girl named Patti Lee is gunned down in the streets of Chicago, the sisters have finally had enough of their men killing each other.


Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris, “Dear White People”) persuades her girls who are down with the Spartans and their female rivals affiliated with the Trojan organization to abstain from sex with their husbands, boyfriends and lovers until the violence in the streets comes to a cease.


“Chi-Raq,” based on the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes, is one big lyrical warning to the brothers of the community engaged in genocide on their own kind.


It starts out with a provocative rap introduction, which brings light to the treacherous streets of America’s third largest city and ends with a call for the Black community to wake up in the same vein as Lee’s call for the community to wake up from the discrimination of colorism in “School Daze.”


The way Lee presents the film with its hip-hop overtures just might be the first shoe to drop in ending these senseless killings.


If one does not walk out of “Chi-Raq” with a new perspective and a sense of purpose, they are just as heartless as the killers that Lee depicts in this film.


The cast is brilliant from Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson to John Cusack as a White inner city preacher who is more concerned with improving the Black community than some of his brothers and sisters of a darker hue.


Lee’s depiction of Jesus Christ as a Black man is no mistake because if one is murdering people who look like Christ, what must that do to our actual Lord and Savior?


Cannon rids himself of the bubblegum, wholesome image with his lead role.  


His fictional gangster is great but not the greatest gangster role from a non-gangster in real life.  That honor still goes to Larenz Tate in “Menace II Society.”


Nevertheless, what Lee has done is shone a bright light on the biggest menace to the Black community.


It is not the police.


It is not racism.


It is ourselves.  And like Jackson urges, it is time we all wake up.


REGAL RATINGS

FOUR CROWNS=EXCELLENT

THREE CROWNS=GOOD

TWO CROWNS=AVERAGE

ONE CROWN=POOR

This article was published on Friday 04 December, 2015.
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