When I was in Chicago for Thanksgiving, the subject of Chi-Raq came up at dinner, and my uncle’s girlfriend dropped her voice to a whisper, noting that the city fathers of Chicago had condemned the film, starting with its title, a damning nickname for a city long infamous for violence and crime, which Spike Lee was asked (and refused) to change. It increased my excitement for a film which, on paper, sounded like a must-see.
I’m not inclined to say that it is, but I’m less inclined to say that it isn’t. In some respects, it’s vintage Lee–righteously angry, incendiary, exuberantly stylized–and uneven in tone and quality. But it lacks the emotional or thematic unity to wholly overcome that unevenness, and it cannot be counted as one of his masterpieces.