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Spike Lee's 'Chi-Raq': Highlights (And Lowlights) From Movie Reviews

By Tanveer Ali | December 4, 2015 1:42pm | Updated on December 5, 2015 9:30am
 Samuel L. Jackson in
Samuel L. Jackson in "Chi-Raq"
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Spike Lee

CHICAGO — Spike Lee's controversially titled "Chi-Raq," a movie about sex strikes and South Side violence, was officially released in theaters Friday.

Here are some of our favorite lines from reviewers: some who really loved it, and some who really hated it.

"The film embraces the fantasy of everlasting peace, while repeatedly acknowledging the reality of inner-city blight. ... That may be a message Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn't want anyone to hear." — Tasha Robinson, The Verge

"Set in contemporary Chicago, where sidewalks are washed with blood, and human hearts beat to the rhythm of gunfire, it takes as its inspiration Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” the fifth-century B.C. comedy in which women organize a sex strike to stop men from making war or, as Mr. Lee puts it with a vulgar flourish, 'No peace, no [expletive]!'" — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

"This film is so bad, that even after 20 minutes of commiserating with other reviewers, even after b----ing about it on my date later in the evening for another 20 minutes, I still don't know how to pour all my hate for this film into one review." — Ijeoma Oluo of Seattle's The Stranger

"One of the more inspired narrative twists involves the police attempting to coax the sex strikers out of the armory with the aid of a PA system and irresistible 70s slow jams. The resulting dance sequence — with the women inside the armory strutting around in army fatigues and chastity belts and the men outside stripped to their undergarments— sets a high bar for absurdist satire that the rest of the film is unable to clear." — Leor Galil, Chicago Reader

"The South Side women are fed up with the carnage caused by the war between rival gangs, the Trojans (Wesley Snipes is their one-eyed leader, Cyclops) and the Spartans (Cannon's character, a rising rapper with a gangbanger's resume, goes by the name Chi-Raq). Lysistrata gets wind of a sex strike, a nonfictional example from recent history, led by Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee. Why not try it here, in the bloody city by the lake?" Michael Phillips, Tribune.

"'Chi-Raq,' Lee’s modernized take on Lysistrata, is mostly bad art; it’s about an hour too long, sometimes leadenly unfunny, and set in Chicago, a place the Brooklynite director has no feel for." — Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The AV Club

"The plot sounds like an uplifting story about the power of women and how communities can come together. It’s not. It sounds like a film that addresses the issues of gang violence that plague Chicago. It sort of is, but mostly its not. A lot of the social commentary the film attempt to address is mixed with so much bad; it’s hard to separate the two." — Tim Hall, seattlepi.com

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