Spike Lee made his career on powerful, politically-charged filmmaking, and he’s back to distupting the powers that be with his new Amazon Studios production, Chi-Raq. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was not pleased when Lee announced his plans for the film, telling the director that Chi-Raq would give a bad name to Englewood, the South Side neighborhood where the story takes place. (Never mind that Lee didn’t come up with the “Chiraq” nickname, which refers to the city’s high rates of gun violence.) Lee countered that the mayor was a “bully,” and filmed in Chicago anyway.
Now, a little over a month before its debut, the first trailer for the film has been released. And it’s as eccentric as early reports suggest, adapting the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata for the modern age. (For those who slept through that portion of drama class, Lysistrata is about a band of women who unite in their refusal to have sex with their men until they stop the senseless bloodshed of the Peloponnesian War.) From what we observed in the trailer, the Greek inspiration appears rather literal, with a chorus of women chanting an anti-sex mantra, Dave Chappelle lamenting in verse about a deficit of strippers, and Samuel L. Jackson playing the omniscient narrator with his usual bombast. It’s colorful, it’s tuneful, and, at the very least, it should be interesting. Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Wesley Snipes, and John Cusack also star.
Chi-Raq premieres in limited theatrical release on December 4, followed by its debut on Amazon Instant Video.