Does Spike Lee want it both ways? Ever since the filmmaker mounted “Chi-Raq” about violence in Chicago — where murder and gun violence are at epidemic levels — controversy has circled the film, and the mayor of the city even spoke out against the picture. It’s been unclear what the movie would be, a comedy, a satire, a dramedy? And when the trailer arrived earlier this week it looked like a mix of both, and it definitely evinced a brazen, immodest, and satirical tone.
Look, I’m a big Lee fan and always have been, but perhaps this has fed right into the hands of critics who have claimed all along that “Chi-Raq” would make light of all the lives lost in the violence that has had a strangle-hold on the Windy City for several years now. It’s clearly affected Lee, who released a second trailer with his own expository defense. “Don’t get it twisted,” he says, explaining the difference between humor and comedy. Truthfully, it’s a really fine line, and by releasing a second trailer with a completely different, less flippant, more somber tone (no Sam Jackson breaking the fourth wall), it does feel like Lee is backpedaling a bit. Is the film meant to be audacious or not? Because that’s what was presented first.
That said, how respectful the film will be — which is one of the claims against it — may always been in the eye of the beholder. And if Lee’s wading feet first into controversial waters, the filmmaker may just have to deal with audiences that will never been satisfied with a film trying to be both explosive and considerate.
“Chi-Raq” opes on December 4th. Watch Lee’s response and the new trailer below.