Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Heaven help us all.

When I used to wear a blue shirt, and peddle electronics at a large, soul-sucking electronics superstore, the highlight of my day were the little conversations I could sneak in with fellow employees. The supervisor of the media department (video games, movies and these things called...CDs?), days before quitting (and working at a prison...across the street), wowed me with this little gem, that seven years later, still cracks me up:

So these two assholes are going back and forth debating which video game system is better. Over and over, they keep arguing, one yammering on about Playstation, while the other guy is all about the XBOX. After a couple of minutes, I've had enough. I go over to these two clowns, and tell them, Sony? XBOX? You know what you should really try? [the guys wait for an answer]


What does that anecdote have to do with Spike Lee's Chi-Raq? Not much, actually, other than how just about anything looks entirely trivial when compared to having sex. But...isn't this movie about all the senseless violence in Chicago? Well, yes. Sort of. I think so. Actually, I'm not even sure what the f--k this movie is about. So, Best Buy, right?

The South Side of Chicago, all bullshit aside, is a f--king war zone. The film opens telling us that more people have been murdered in Chicago than have died in the United States war in Afghanistan over the same period of time. At the heart of this conflict (in the movie, anyway) are two rival gangs, the Trojans and the Spartans, each representing a section of the endless cavalcade of senseless violence.

After a couple of dudes are killed at a hip-hop show, the shit really hits the fan when an act of retaliation leads to the death of an innocent young girl. Her shooting seems to be the breaking point, as not only has another person died, but yet again, no one is coming forward with information. While the gangs keep on doing the dumb shit that they do, their women decide to put an end to all the foolishness. Their play?

No peace?
No pussy.

Apparently this cunning stunt isn't all that original, as Lee's film is a modern retelling of a famous play dating back to ancient Greece. While I certainly appreciate the idea, it's the execution that leaves something to be desired. Lee's film assaults the senses, sure, but in a way that detracts from the message.

There is some heavy shit being kicked around here, but it's all presented like a big f--king joke (about f--king, no less). Life and death issues are being filtered through a comedy about ass and titties. Huh?Someone much smarter than I am probably sees the genius in that juxtaposition, but I felt all the just give Daddy what he wants bullshit undermined Lee's not-too subtle agenda. But that's not even my biggest problem...

Whatcha man got to do with me?
More than the hokey and incessant discussed sexual frustrations, is the shocking fact that damn near every single line in this film rhymes. Yes, you read that correctly. Impressive? Sure. For the first hour. But eventually it wore me the f--k down, and actually flat-out irritated me at times. In far too many instances, the need to rhyme either tremendously dragged things out, or made them entirely pointless. I mean, rhyming repetition with pussy magician is clever enough (and perhaps amusing?), but it's also kind of f--king stupid, too. Reminds me of this blog I write read.

I once rhymed every single one of the Yays and Boos [here], but like this film, apparently, few f--ks were given. But like Lee, mass indifference to my work ain't gonna stop me. I mean, not yet, anyway.

That suit makes me feel like I'm watching Family Feud.
  • Dude, this flick has a f--king epic long take that blew me away. Such energy, it's so badass.
  • We're treated to some rad interludes where Samuel L. Jackson talks directly to us. I know, right?
  • Maybe I'm a dick, but I've never forgiven Jennifer Hudson for winning that Oscar. Anyway...she's pretty good here, dammit.
  • The intro of the hottest chick on the block is so f--king rad. She's walking on beat and it's the coolest shit ever. Like, she's just mashing that shit.
  • The rival gangs are orange and purple and some of the scenes featuring them are entirely gorgeous.
  • Dave Chapelle shows us as a strip club owner...with no girls. Maybe my favorite scene in the film...
  • Though any times Wesley Snipes does his little giggle thing? Well...that might be a close second.
  • Wheelchair Guy dropping truths. Whoa. That mess felt authentic.
  • O-gene! Ever since The Practice, I'm a sucker for anything that Steve Harris does. Anything.
  • Operation Hot and Bothered is as awesome as it is stupid. 
  • Oh Girl by the Chi-Lites is one of the smoothest songs ever. The rendition of it here is updated, but still awesome, nearly by default.
  • Clearly Spike Lee isn't going about this whole thing with any amount of subtlety (though at times I would have preferred it). That said, I still totally dug the fact that 'WAKE UP' appeared in giant letters as the final frame.
  • And finally, though I ultimately didn't like this movie, I fully appreciate how unique it is. Inspired lunacy may sound like a dig, but that wouldn't be my intention. Chi-Raq is insanely subversive, contains an important message, and at the very least, is interesting to look at. But...
  • Take a look at that screen grab from Redbox. Notice anything? Let me help you: 93 minutes. I rented this one while my wife was out of town on business, figuring I could knock it out while the kids were asleep (and still get a good night's sleep). Guess what? It's f--king 127 minutes long. RIDICULOUS! You know what other good stuff I passed on?
  • Oh, and speaking of, the message of 'No peace, No pussy', well, let's just say I didn't need that reminder, thank you very much.
  • So...that opening rap song...was, uh...kinda long, no?
  • Man, I loves me some John Cusack. I do. Here, he plays the local preacher trying to keep the town from imploding. Maybe it's because his character is at the end of his rope, but Cusack comes off as tired. Like, of being in movies. Shit, even is voice is going...(even his epic sermon loses steam)
  • There's this very weird scene with some character named General King Kong. Honestly, it's about as cringe-worthy as they come. I understand what he represents (at least I think I do), but that shit felt...tacky?
  • Ugh. The Life Insurance salesman. This dude comes by, basically saying, So, you have a young, black son in Chicago? Well, have you ever considered taking out a policy? 
  • Ben Carson gets his name mentioned in one of the rhymes. It's clever, and totally appropriate, but I think it best if we all pretend that dude never happened. Not that he's the worst of the bunch...but still.
  • This is the first time I have ever given a Boo to two people having consensual sex, but whoever that chick was that broke the worldwide vow? Yep, she's getting it. Pun...intended. I think.
  • What was up with the Ultimate Sex Showdown? What the f--k was that?
  • Chicago's Got Problems! Forgetting how odd this whole endeavor is, even just for a second, the fact that main star of this film is Nick Cannon is curious, too. It's not that he's not a talented dude, 'cause he is, but I felt his presence was distracting. Maybe we watch too much America's Got Talent every summer.
  • And finally, even though I've beaten this horse to death, the message gets lost along the way. Sure, something can persuade and entertain at the same time, but ultimately, for me, Chi-Raq did neither. I dig that Spike Lee can make whatever the f--k he wants, however, here? It seems to be the overall detriment of the film.
In a film about gun-violence and senseless murder, the biggest weapon turns out to be sex (though I could be more specific, huh?). What does this say about men? Hell, what does it say about women? Are all guys just stupid assholes, simply passing the time doing whatever, until they can have sex again? Makes us all seem pretty f--king stupid, doesn't it? But is it really that empowering for ladies, the fact that they hold the cards by being able to withhold sex? Shit. I'm not sure I want a piece of that discussion at all. In fact...

I'm going to forget about all this nonsense and go play video games on my Playstation 4.

Cause it's waaaaay better than XBOX!


  1. I'll be seeing this soon so I can't say what I think of it. However, I will say your opening story cracked me up.

    1. Send me that review as soon as you write it, Dell. I'm dying to know what other people think of it.

      And, yeah, that dude was pretty awesome in his last days as a Blue Shirt. Kinda lost his mind.

  2. "No Peace, No Pussy" would have been the greatest tagline in the history of taglines. I'm actually jealous of you for posting it...because I want to use it :-P


    LOL, maybe I'll watch this tonight.

  3. If only that was my idea. That tagine is chanted 500x in this film. Easily.

    Please, please...please watch it. Call up Dell and watch it on the phone together, 1987 style.

    1. OMG, I'm almost tempted to DM Dell right now and ask if he wants to watch it tonight on speaker!

  4. "No peace, no pussy." LOL
    I have this in my Netflix queue, I think it's about to come available soon.

    1. Holy shit...well...consider yourself...uh..warned? Honestly, I don't even know what to say about this film. At all. If you watch it...let me know. IMMEDIATELY. (just like Fisti did...okay, maybe not WHILE you're watching it)

  5. Ha, you know. If all of us women united on this then I think most wars would end. It does seem a little long at 127 minutes.

    Fun tidbit, I grew up on the north side of Chicago until I was a teen. I left in the late 90s. I don't remember Chicago being a war zone then. There were gangs, but the gun violence was not this bad. I was watching an episode of 'Vice' (I think it's on HBO) and a former gang member said "back in the day people got 'jumped' (beat up), but they took their @sskicking and left it that. Now no one wants to get their @ss kicked, so they start shooting." I think the issue is more complex than that (with the easy availability of guns from Indiana), but it made sense to me. Something has changed in the culture. People pull guns like they're in the wild wild west or something.

    Nice review. I also love your story about working in the soul destroying box store. I think that's a rite of passage.

    1. I totally agree with you. 100%. On both fronts.

      What you're saying about violence, and perhaps even gun-culture, rings true, even if we're both probably looking back through nostalgic eyes. Whatever the case, it certainly wasn't as bad when we were kids, as this film (and shit, the facts) present contemporary Chicago. Everything is ramped up. Everything.

      I worry where it's all headed, not necessarily for the clowns partaking in this bullshit now, but in the decade before my own kids are out there. *shudder* Are we going to look back on this 'wild-west' shit that we have now and say, "Remember when they used to just shot each other?"

      I was too old for that rite of passage (I think I was 28 or something?), but bills gotta be paid. It actually was fun though, honestly, as we had to take the dumbest shit seriously! ("WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN'T SELL A WARRANTY WITH THAT TV?")