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Director Spike Lee manages to find some creative ways to deliver important messages throughout the film. What's great about the messages is that they're far from being politically correct. Whether you agree with them or not, you can at the very least respect its sincerity given the gravity of the issues being discussed.
It was somewhat surreal to see that many of the people in the film were actual victims of the violence that plagues Chicago. We were shown former gang members who shared their experiences, and also some of the actual mothers that have lost their children to gun violence.
Across the board, there were some solid performances given. Angela Bassett portrayed a strong force and presence in her role as Miss. Helen. John Cusack excelled in his character as a fiery, activist, Chicago preacher. Jennifer Hudson captured a small portion of what it may look like to be a parent of a victim to gun violence. Teyonah Parris (who plays Lysistrata) does a nice job in leading the film as well.
Unfortunately for Chi-Raq, despite the many moments when this movie takes on a serious tone towards violence, the sex-related scenes will be a bit of a distraction for some viewers. I don't believe that it's the movie's fault. Rather, for whatever reason, some viewers expected Chi-Raq to be in the format of a serious documentary. (Which it obviously isn't) Given that assumption, some viewers may completely neglect the underlying message about violence. Which unfortunately undermines the intent of this film.
Another knock on this film will probably one of the final scenes between Nick Cannon and Teyonah Parris' characters. Their "confrontation" seemed a little prolonged, and probably could've been cut shorter by a minute or two. It just made that particular scene a tad bit awkward to watch in a dark room full of strangers. :-/
I suppose you can take this "Bad" how you wish; but anyone from Chicago knows that one of the biggest problems are the incidents that involve the youth killing their peers. The unimaginable horror of hearing about kids killing other kids is something that not even this film could tackle, and unfortunately isn't really addressed.
Let's begin with this...this is a Spike Lee film. If you're familiar with Lee's work, then you already know it's in a class of its own. So, given all of the controversy surrounding this movie, I'd like to take a moment to address some of the concerns by critics of the film...who have yet to even see the movie.
Uninformed Critic: ("That trailer really bothered me")
There apparently seemed to be a great deal of criticism for this movie before it was even viewed by the general public. Not only that, but people didn't take kindly to the first trailer that was released believing that this movie was somehow going to make light of the serious issue of gun violence in Chicago. Click Here to read what Spike Lee said in a recent interview about how this film DOES NOT do such a thing. You can also Click Here to view the 2nd trailer (that has a more serious tone).
Critic: ("Okay, I liked the 2nd trailer, but why couldn't Spike just release that one instead?")
Did you happen to see When the Levees Broke? You know that seriously toned Spike Lee documentary about the events of Hurricane Katrina? It won a 2006 Peabody Award. No? So what makes you think that the general public would run into theaters to watch a serious documentary about the deaths of inner city black children, gangs and gun violence?
Uninformed Critic: "I can't believe that Spike would make fun of or make light of the violence in Chicago!"
I'd like to remind everyone that Spike Lee is the same man who has brought us Malcolm X, Get on the Bus, and Do the Right Thing. The same man who has made the majority of his life's work centered on the plight of the African American struggle in America. Do we honestly believe, for one second, that out of nowhere he's going to simply start making fun of the deaths of innocent black children? Do we honestly believe that Jennifer Hudson, who tragically lost THREE family members to the same violence in Chicago, would really sign up to play a prominent role in this film? Father Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest in Chicago of St. Sabina Church, with a predominantly black congregation, who has been incredibly instrumental in leading the charge against violence and injustice, has also supported this film. Do we really believe that Father Pfleger, would partner up with Spike Lee in the production of this film if it was making light of the situation?
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Now if that's not enough to dispel some of the unwarranted and ignorant criticism (yes, "ignorant", because if you haven't seen it you're literally speaking on something you don't know) I'd like to actually break down some key points about this film before you decide to see it.
As you can tell from the trailer, this movie does have a decent amount of humor in it. That is because this movie is a satire. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, a satire is the use of humor, irony, ridicule or exaggeration to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices (especially in political matters). If you've ever watched and enjoyed shows like The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, Family Guy, or even The Boondocks, then you've watched a satire. It is vitally important to understand before going in that this movie NEVER makes fun of the violence and deaths in Chicago. The only time you'll see most of the humor is when it's focused on the sex or sometimes portrayal of the gangs. The film does a really good job of separating the serious moments from the humorous moments.
As a parent of two daughters who have friends and family in Chicago, I found it almost impossible not to connect with this film on some level. I think that this movie will touch the hearts of any parent even if you have no ties to Chicago. Reason being is that Chi-Raq's message isn't even directed to only Chicago. The message in this film brings about a greater sense of awareness of the gun violence that's rapidly becoming a national problem.
With that said, I'll leave you with this: Again, the goal of this movie is to bring about awareness about gun violence. If you choose not to support this movie, then my hope is that you're at least doing something to help stop the violence in a constructive and positive way. However, if you choose to ignore this movie, discourage others from seeing it, or just going out and bootlegging it, then in my opinion, you're equally a part of the problem. *Kanye Shrug*
The Rating: 10/10
Special thanks to Father Pfleger for giving me the opportunity to attend the world premiere so that I could review it.