Monday, January 18, 2016

Reel Talk: Chi-Raq

Synopsis: A modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata  set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago.

Review: One has to at least give some credit at the sheer ambition in attempting to modernize the story of Lysistrata with using the scourge of  Chicago inner city gun violence as its backdrop. But then again, this isn't Spike Lee's first foray into bombastic social commentary. Once you are introduced to Samuel Jackson's  loquacious narration, it is easy to assume that Chi-Raq is anything but subtle viewing. The problem is not Spike's overall  intent, but his flawed execution. Instead of Chi-Raq coming off as clever satire,the movie becomes a caricature of itself, and occasionally ventures into sophomoric territory.  Such direction worked well in  Lee's Bamboozled because minstrel shows themselves are exaggerated depictions. However, to attempt to use those same  thematic devices with an issue that is in the forefront of urban decay can be quite the daunting task and risk alienating the very audience Lee is seeking to enlighten . Furthermore,rhyming dialogue and bewildering tonality shifts leaves the viewer a bit unsettled despite the clever connections to the source material. Even with this misguided direction, the pageantry of Chi-Raq alone is worth experiencing and may require multiple viewings to fully process what has been viewed! (C+)  -CgN