Amazon Studios’ first original movie, “Chi-Raq” from Spike Lee, is now available for streaming to Prime members at no extra cost. And so far, the film has generated a polarizing response from Amazon users.
The movie, about endemic violence in inner-city Chicago, currently has a 2.7 out of 5 rating on Amazon, with 44% of users giving it one star. On the other hand, 30% of reviewers gave “Chi-Raq” five stars, including one who called the film “a blisteringly urgent modern masterpiece.”
Variety‘s Justin Chang called the movie “blunt, didactic and stronger on conceptual audacity than dramatic coherence,” adding that it “is still the most vital, lived-in work in some time” from Spike Lee. “Chi-Raq” has an 82% critics’ rating and 54% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Amazon gave “Chi-Raq” a limited theatrical release Dec. 4, in order to qualify for Academy Awards consideration. But the movie — with a cast of prominent African-American actors — did not earn any Oscar nods.
Indeed, no films featuring black actors received Oscar nominations this year. That spurred a backlash against the industry, with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on social media, and a discussion about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. In the wake of the controversy Spike Lee, among others, said he would not be attending the Academy Awards.
“Chi-Raq,” a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata” comparing inner-city American violence to war-torn Iraq, was written by Lee and writer-director Kevin Willmott (“C.S.A.: Confederate States Of America”) and directed by Lee. The movie stars Nick Cannon, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Jennifer Hudson, John Cusack, Steve Harris, D.B. Sweeney and Harry Lennix.
“Chi-Raq” is available to members of Amazon’s $99-per-year Prime program on the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices including Amazon Fire TV, mobile devices and the web. In addition to SD and HD, the film is also available in 4K Ultra HD on Amazon Fire TV and compatible smart TVs from Samsung, LG and Sony.
The movie was produced by Amazon Studios and Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, and distributed theatrically by Roadside Attractions. Amazon released DVD and Blu-ray disc version of “Chi-Raq” on Jan. 26.