It’s not hard to see what Spike Lee is going for with Chi-Raq. He’s an outspoken dude, and he gave plenty of interviews about his desire for peace in the black communities of Chicago on the movie’s press tour. Clearly the man has good intentions for this movie. But the result is tonally imbalanced and sort of insulting. On paper, a satirical musical performed all in rhyme about gun violence and gang life from the great Spike Lee sounds like a risk for movie newbies Amazon, but one well worth taking. Lee’s movies thrive on risk, on a hip-hop sense of thrill. But onscreen, while there are flashes of great filmmaking (especially in scenes that cede the floor to powerful performances from Teyonah Parris and Angela Bassett), most of it feels unfinished and haphazard. Maybe this is what happens when somebody who so clearly and vividly represents Brooklyn tries to capture the essence of a different city without the blessing of that city’s community.
Quicker take: If you want the best experience watching Chi-Raq, watch Do the Right Thing instead.