Spike Lee's 'Chi-Raq' Adapts Ancient Greek Play to Show Modern Chicago Violence

Spike Lee's Chi-Raq - the film and soundtrack released on December 4, 2015
Spike Lee's Chi-Raq film and soundtrack released on December 4, 2015

Director and writer Spike Lee has done smart and sexy film, hard satirical film and Afro-conscious socio-political film in his past with, respectively, She's Gotta Have It, School Daze and Do the Right Thing. Those early flicks created the blueprint for his films to follow (save for Inside Man, his heist drama anomaly). With Chi-Raq, Lee's new "joint" released on December 4, Lee merges all three concepts into one bawdy, colorful dramedy based on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the 5th-Century B.C. play in which women organize sex strikes to stop men from making war. Lee's modern setting is present-day Chicago with warring gangs and black-on-black violence as the reason the women withhold sex.

While Nick Cannon and Wesley Snipes play godlike gang leaders, Samuel L. Jackson plays a chatty Greek chorus of one, and John Cusack a passionately ranting Roman Catholic priest, it is the women of Chi-Raq – a title given to Lee by Chicago rappers who liken their town to Iraq – who rule. Teyonah Parris plays "Lysistrata" as femme firebrand looking to take down the male power structure in the name of peace, and Jennifer Hudson plays a grieving mother whose wounded soul and pierced heart is the tale upon which this story's hurt axis rotates. Chi-Raq is easily Lee's most important and incendiary work since Do the Right Thing.

As always, Lee's soundtrack for Chi-Raq has an equal role in telling his story. Trumpeter Terrence Blanchard (a frequent Lee collaborator) composes a wall-to-wall score mixing Bop, free jazz, soul and hip hop into an over boiling stew, and Mali Music with Jhené Aiko, Kid Ink and R. Kelly Рalong with Hudson and Cannon Рcreate songs of equal passion, humor and furor.

Photo courtesy of RCA Records

Posted on Friday, December 4, 2015