I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
A full year after it opened in the US, Spike Lee’s latest film, the outraged and outrageous Chi-Raq, is finally opening in the UK. Yet after a summer of Black Lives Matter protests and racially charged politics on both sides of the Atlantic, it still feels entirely of the moment. In a Chicago so beset by violent death that it’s more like the ongoing war zone of Iraq than any city in the supposedly greatest country in the world should be, a child is caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout… and her death is the last straw that prompts the disgusted wives and girlfriends of the gangbangers to go on a sex strike until the violence ends. Lee’s (Miracle at St. Anna) audacious updating (with coscreenwriter Kevin Willmott: CSA: The Confederate States of America) of Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata makes its 2,500-year-old concept seem as fresh as, well, the hashtaggable slogan the women deploy: “No peace, no pussy!” Teyonah Parris (They Came Together) as Lysistrata is the beautifully, righteously angry and impassioned center to an all-around amazing cast who bring vivid and entirely modern expression to rhyming verse (which the original play was not written in) that is half Shakespeare and half rap. (Samuel L. Jackson [Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children] as the almost literal Greek chorus commenting on the action is another highlight.) Sometimes it’s brutal, as when Jennifer Hudson’s (The Three Stooges) grieving mother scrubs her dead child’s blood from the street. Sometimes it’s electrifying, as in the raging sermon John Cusack’s (Love & Mercy) activist priest delivers about guns and poverty and the “self-inflicted genocide” that Chicago’s — and America’s — black community is engaging in. And often it’s unexpectedly hilarious. Chi-Raq is furious and funny and deadly serious, a raw, searing satire that swells into a fantasy about how we might put aside savagery, a fantasy that we desperately need to embrace right now. A cry for justice from outside black communities, a cry for truth and reconciliation from within, and a hope for common ground to be found for us all, this is a vitally essential film for our time.