A pretty serious chunk of the city of Chicago — from the government to its hip-hop community — are really mad about Spike Lee’s upcoming musical drama and modern Greek tragedy film, Chiraq. And Spike has fought them every step of the way.
Today, we’re receiving our first real glimpse of the movie, a month ahead of its limited release date of December 4. The two-and-a-half minute trailer highlights Samuel L. Jackson as Robin Goodfellow prankster/tragic chorus-like narrator, and stars Nick Cannon, Dave Chapelle, Angela Bassett, and Jennifer Hudson, among others.
The clip makes Chiraq look like typical, highly stylized and ambitious Lee — in other words, exactly what the on-paper description would suggest. There’s an Empire-esque theatricality to the Chicago-hip-hop-influenced musical sequences highlighted here: We can easily bet on some Broadway takes on Lil Durk here.
I think of nothing so much as Romeo + Juliet when I watch: that combination of a script in verse, centuries-old character names, tattoos, and automatic machine guns will do it every time. My best guess for the movie is: There will be some questionable oversimplified thematic element, unintentionally funny interpolations into the Aristophanes source material, and intermittent, batshit, expressionistic brilliance.
Other than that, the trailer’s biggest misstep is that it isn’t a montage set to King Louie’s “To Live and Die in Chicago.”
Judge Chiraq’s potential for yourself below: