And now for something completely batty. This adaptation of Aristophanes' Lisistrata is updated to a gang war-torn Chicago, mixing humour, pathos and musical numbers to great effect. With rapper and Trojan gang leader Chi-Raq (Cannon) battling Cyclops' (an eye-patch clad Wesley Snipes) Spartans on the streets, the women of the city, headed up by Chi-Raq moll Lystristata (Parris) and matriarch Miss Helen (Bassett), band together to increase the peace. Their tactic of No Peace, No Pussy is at first laughed off but as the months go by the city's men – everyone from gangbangers to the mayor (D.B. Sweeney) – become increasingly itchy as the women refuse to do the do…
pike Lee has rediscovered his mojo with this belter, filtering Boyz In The Hood and hip hop through Baz Luhrmann's hyper styled Romeo and Juliet. That this is something different is noticeable from the off: Nick Cannon's loud and imposing Pray 4 My City is given its full three minutes, the tell-it-like-it-is lyrics looming large across the screen. It's a pummelling opening gambit and doesn't let up from there; before you know it John Cusack (playing a priest?) is giving a raspy, impassioned speech at the funeral of Jennifer Hudson's daughter; the seven-year-old caught in a crossfire is what sends events in motion. Then there's the funny sex-off, the seduction number set to The Chi-Lites, and Samuel L. Jackson popping up as a foul-mouthed Greek chorus. Lee is definitely back on song with his most visual outing since Do The Right Thing.
ike its title – a portmanteau of Chicago and Iraq, the former boasting more violent deaths than the war - is not a subtle movie by any stretch (one look at David Patrick Kelly's General King Kong in his Confederate Flag underpants riding a cannon called Whistling Dick will hint at that) but it embraces its obviousness and melodrama and runs with it. Just like it does with its wonky tone, which can veer from the funny to the serious from scene to scene. Lee also seems unconcerned with inconsistency, as some exchanges rhyme but others do not. It's a heady brew. It's all over the place. But it never flags and the strong message at its heart isn't lost under the noise: the numbers of young black men lost to gang life is now in the realm genocide.
t doesn't always work – there are cheap gags like The Wire’s Isiah Whitlock Jr. doing his 'sheeeeeeeeeeeet' thing – but you’ll not see anything similar for some time.