Spike Lee is angry again. It’s exciting when a filmmaker of Lee’s caliber finds his rage (questionably absent for over a decade), although it’s usually over dire social circumstances. In Chi-Raq, it’s the gun culture and violence in America that has Lee incensed. Lee opens the film with sirens blaring while a monotone female voice is heard saying ‘this is an emergency’ as the message flashes on screen followed by the sounds of gunfire. If Lee doesn’t have your attention yet, he follows the warning with stats of deaths in war zones followed by the kicker that Chicago, U.S.A, has them all beat with bloodshed. The Windy City is renamed to ‘Chi-Raq’—a mash of Chicago and Iraq that’s slang used by real locals—to reflect its status as a war zone. Cut to the sharply dressed Dolmedes (Samuel L. Jackson at his most self-aware Jackson-est), our guide through the streets, who says, “Welcome to Chi-Raq, a land of pain, misery and strife.” With this opener, Lee doesn’t just announce that he’s back, he’s riding a flaming wrecking ball, and it never lets up with its optimistic savagery for racism, poverty, gender politics, lethargy and communal denial.

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