“Chi-Raq” is a creative cinematic work of art by director Spike Lee that you will either enthusiastically embrace or reject out of hand. Analyzing the horrid costs of gun violence in the city of Chicago, Lee shines an unashamed camera at the causes and a possible cure.
A magnetic film that is outrageous at nearly every turn, Lee uses as his theme the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes. In this case, a group of Chicago women grow so disgusted with young people being gunned down daily in their city that they take over a National Guard facility, embracing the theme of “No peace, no pu--y.” Initially confronted with laughter, the gangs of Chicago quickly see the consequences flowing from their love of firearms.
This women’s movement, led by Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris), soon convinces many female cohorts that they can no longer tolerate the inexcusable murder of children on the city streets. Lysistrata is the love interest of a rapper known by the name of Chi-Raq (Nick Cannon). Her small group soon grows to enormous numbers as women ranging from the middle class to prostitutes suddenly cross their legs and alter their motto to read, “No peace, no piece.” You’ll love these women.
There are some other interesting performances, beginning with Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett and John Cusack. Hudson plays Irene, a mother of a dead child who forms the heart of this women’s movement, while Miss Helen (Bassett) encourages the protesters when some start to question the meaning of their movement. Cusack, playing a white urban preacher (Father Mike Corridan), delivers a powerful sermon during the church funeral for Irene’s son. He gives an oration that should be seen by all presidential candidates of both parties.
I should also mention that Samuel L. Jackson repeatedly appears as Dolmedes to narrate the film, speaking in rhymes that are at times profanely funny. You won’t forget him.
Lee’s film challenges America to look behind the curtain when it comes to gun violence. Since 2001, more Chicago residents have been murdered than the collective number of American soldiers who died in both Afghanistan and Iraq. While our elected leaders and presidential candidates urge us to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to a meaningful discussion about passing sensible gun legislation, the fact remains that black residents of major metropolitan areas are being betrayed.
Like it or not, “Chi-Raq” has the courage to point out how lingering racism spawned from centuries of slavery is still seen in this country.
What Lee does is offer a meaningful alternative to a government that does nothing about this ghastly problem. What do you think the reaction would be if all women in our society simply withheld sex until people turned in their guns?
Make fun of it all you want, but I think even Donald Trump would be forced to take action if Melania locked his bedroom door.
Top films of 2015
Since my deadline for this issue preceded the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and some interesting Christmas releases, I thought I would extend to all of you a Christmas gift by pointing out my favorite films of 2015. They are listed in no particular order.
1. “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Led by Charlize Theron’s magnificent performance, I noted in my review that the subtitle of the film should simply be, “Band of Sisters.” I suspect it will not be ignored at Oscar time.
2. “Grandma.” Lily Tomlin is a knockout as a lesbian grandmother trying to help a teenage granddaughter obtain an abortion. And for those of you shaking your head, please remember that it is very, very funny.
3. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “McFarland, USA.” Two tiny films that you will embrace for different reasons. The latter is the finest work that Kevin Costner has done in a long time.
4. “Best of Enemies” and “Amy.” The two best documentaries of the past year. You will be fascinated by both.
5. “Sicario.” Emily Blunt deserves Oscar consideration and Benicio Del Toro is as nasty as he’s ever been.
6. “Trumbo” and “Spotlight.” Two fantastic films that recreate moments in our recent history that most of us would rather forget.
7. “Ex Machina” and “Testament of Youth.” Two brilliant performances from Alicia Vikander, and I can’t wait to see her in “The Danish Girl.”
8. “Mr. Holmes.” Ian McKellen plays a 90-year-old Sherlock Holmes and that is all I need to say.
9. “Straight Outta Compton.” See it and try not to tap your foot during the entire film.
10. “Brooklyn.” A movie about a young Irish immigrant girl that will resonate with all girls, young and old. And I should add that aging men also will find it special.
11. “Suffragette” and “The Walk.” Two brilliant films that were largely overlooked. Women applauded when I saw the former, and the latter re-creates a moment in history that will leave you with sweaty palms.
That leaves “The Revenant,” “Carol,” “The Hateful Eight,” “The Big Short” and “Legend” to be seen during the Christmas holiday.
See any of these films and consider them a gift from Santa Claus.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.