CHI-RAQ

When “Chi-Raq” began with a rap song that was full of the N-word and F-bomb, I thought, “ What in the world did I get myself into?” As the movie went on, I realized that “Chi-Raq” has an extremely important message not only for the African-American community but for everyone. The film’s message says that it’s time to put away the guns and gangs and learn to respect and love each other

“Chi-Raq” is a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes, set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. For those of you who are not aware of the play it is a comic account of one woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata persuades the women of Greece to withhold sexual favors from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace—a strategy, however, that inflames the battle between the sexes.

“Chi-Raq” has an all-star cast. Nick Cannon stars in the title role as Chi-Raq. Teyonah Parris is convincing as Lysistrata. Wesley Snipes is Cyclops. Angela Bassett is Miss Helen. Samuel L. Jackson plays Domedes who narrates the film. John Cusack is Father Mike Corridan and Jennifer Hudson plays Irene.

The screenplay was written by Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, adapted from the play “Lysistrata.” Spike Lee directed.

Sadly, the song by Chi-Raq had to have subtitles so the general audience could make out what was being sung even though the song was being rapped in English. Actually, I needed subtitles in other places because the sound wasn’t good. Sometimes I could not hear everything being said especially when Samuel L. Jackson was narrating in rhyme. The whole movie was in rhyme.

I saw this movie Monday at Landmark’s Tivoli Theatre in University City with a group of Film Critics. Most liked the film. A couple of critics were offset by the language but everyone thought it had a very powerful message. A warning: “Chi-Raq” is not for everyone. The F-bomb and other graphic language abounds. There is lots of sex and talk about sex. It is extremely explicit sexually but it tells a message that needs to be told..

“Chi-Raq” opens Friday at Wehrenberg’s Ronnie’s 20 Cine.

The Telegraph’s contributing movie critic Mary Cox lives in Wood River and is a member of the St. Louis Film Critics Association, who also occasionally writes about film-related topics, studied film at the University of California, Los Angeles, and worked in L.A. with various directors and industry professionals. She can be reached at mlcwriter@charter.net. Visit Mary’s website at www.mlcwriter.com.