I have no problem with the original reviewer hating the film. I'm surprised it hasn't received more bad press.

My problem with the review was they hated it, perhaps for the same good reasons you lay out quite well here, without mentioning the source material once. They expressed incredulity at the Lysistrata plot, and again maybe that's the right thing to do, but didn't seem to know where it came from. They wrote as if Spike Lee created this withholding sex for peace idea from thin air. That made them seem like an uninformed critic, which sadly casts the rest of the piece into doubt. That it was based on Lysistrata was hardly a secret, and Lysistrata, while ancient, isn't obscure.

The review, for me, needed that framework of understanding to be able to take this film down properly. I couldn't get past it.

This piece quite clearly explains issues with the source material's applicability to the world portrayed in this film. I wish the original review would have at least hinted at the same concerns.
Vicar, here it is in the fourth paragraph: "...Spike Lee's ambitious new film tackling inner-city Chicago violence through the power of the pussy (I wish I were exaggerating, but it's based on the ancient Greek play Lysistrata)." Did they edit the review after you posted?

In point 6 of the list of reasons not to see it, there seems to be another reference to the source: "Denying a man sex is like denying him water or air—an extreme cruelty that makes men justifiably desperate. In a world where black women are more susceptible to domestic and sexual violence, this is a dangerous and tired trope."

I'm not buying your nit-picking at all. Mine is much better. :)
I read the review and also wondered (having not yet seen the film) if the source material, Lysistrata, were the source of much of its problematic elements. The play has been alternately celebrated, especially in the 60s, and decried for its portrayal of sexuality and political power. It certainly on the surface does not sit well with current progressive and feminist ideals.

But then I remembered Mai Zetterling's The Girls (1968)—a brilliant, frustrating, at times polemic film that adopts and reinvents Lysistrata as the springboard for a very acerbic and witty feminist critique, and it seemed obvious that laying the blame of an adaptation's shortcomings on the source isn't exactly fair. If the film doesn't work, you can hardly blame a 5th century Athenian for not anticipating 21st century AD political and sexual mores, much less the medium of film at all. Ultimately, if the film is problematic, it is probably because Lee failed to make a clever reading of the text he was adapting.

I still have yet to see Lee's crowdfunded remake of Ganja & Hess, so I can't yet speak at all to Lee's skill as an interpreter of other peoples' work. I hope Chi-Raq is not as bad as the review indicates...
I'll see it.
eprophet: Yes, Vicar is referring to the first Mercury review as it originally appeared online. The parenthetical phrase originally just said "(I wish I were exaggerating)", and the review made no reference to Lysistrata. The edited addition to that sentence about Lysistrata only came after a few people in the comments section said "Wait ... isn't this plot based on Lysistrata?"

I haven't yet seen this film, but I'm curious. It may in fact be terrible. But to answer the question posed here — "Spike Lee's Chi-Raq is Insultingly Bad. Why Are Other Critics Failing To Say So?" — is that, maybe they genuinely didn't think it was insultingly bad, even from a feminist perspective? It's pretty obvious that Lee is presenting this as a highly stylized fantasy/parable, not any kind of realistic drama. (For all the criticisms Quentin Tarantino gets, I don't think he got much flak for, like, "Inglorious Basterds" and "Django Unchained" not being "realistic" – people understood that he was taking pretty broad artistic liberties with history.)
(Edit to my comment above: it looks like the different version of the first review was actually in the Stranger, not the Mercury; obviously as sister papers they share some material. Sorry for mixing them up.)
Is he the funny looking little guy with glasses?

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