Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, Paul Giamatti
Release: August 14, 2015
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 3.5/5 cans of Guinness
Straight Outta Compton is the second film this year to prove my initial judgement wrong. When I first saw the trailer I found myself pretty excited but over time my enthusiasm quenched and I became wary that this would not be the N.W.A. film I’ve been waiting for. Thankfully Straight Outta Compton has been the biggest surprise hit this summer with rave reviews and becoming the highest grossing music biopic of all-time.
The reason for my concern is because I have never been a fan of biopic films, I always feel that in trying to make a film about a person or group of people’s exploits biopic films only ever really scratch the surface and never fully commit to showing the whole story. A biopic can also suffer from pacing issues with falsified scenes of drama or romance shoe horned in to keep the masses entertained. Straight Outta Compton does share some of these sinful traits however it remains grounded enough to give a cohesive and largely truthful telling of the career of N.W.A.
Straight Outta Compton charters the rise and fall of N.W.A one of the biggest contributors to gangsta rap and Los Angeles first super group. The story focuses on three of the members of the group Easy E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre and their lives pre N.W.A, during their rise to fame and post-N.W.A.
As a huge fan of N.W.A. since my early teens I’ve read a considerable amount of articles and first-hand accounts from the members themselves on the career of N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton in my opinion tells their story pretty well and knows which key moments of each member’s career to focus on. While the film does skip over a lot of vital moments which I would have preferred to be shown (Dre and Easy’s rap feud in particular) the film crams as much as it can in its 147 minute run time and most of it fits well.
The best scenes of the film are in the studio which delighted me, I knew every song in the film and I was ecstatic with the inclusion of my favourite N.W.A song Gangsta Gangsta. Every song thumps and thuds boisterously and aggressively giving a raw sense of the angry and discontented voice of the masses, it’s great because N.W.A weren’t just the pioneers of gangsta rap they were the voice of their community and gave explicit details of their reality.
The representation of the police force is pretty negative but probably very relatable to young African-Americans who have suffered harassment and prejudice from officers of the law. This is still a shaky topic today with the recent trend of young unarmed African-American men being shot and killed dominating headlines in America. While it’s a negative portrayal of law enforcement its somewhat justified by the poor treatment of minorities in America and the members of the group themselves (the film even ties in the Rodney King case to show how high tensions were then).
The biggest problem I have with Straight Outta Compton is its portrayal of Easy and Dre in the third act. The film makes it look as if Easy suffered this big downfall and hit hard times while Dre was hugely successful. This is just not true as Dre was still under contract with Ruthless records and Easy received payment on every copy of Dre’s albums that were sold; I even remember seeing a video of Easy on Arsenio Hall joking about collecting on every copy sold (Dre Day only meant Easy’s payday). I know that Dre would obviously prefer to keep his past controversies out of the film but the film makes him out to nearly be a saint.
Straight Outta Compton is stylish and entertaining movie with a great cast who not only look the part (it’s insane how much Ice Cubes son O’Shea Jackson Jr looks exactly like him) but play the parts great. Seriously most these actors aren’t well known but should be after this movie it’s superbly acted. I’ve always wanted to see N.W.A’s story on the silver screen and I left the theater really satisfied. I’d recommend it to anyone whether they know N.W.A’s story or not. I actually believe they could have split this film into two parts, it’s been successful enough to warrant it anyway and I feel like it could have covered more ground if it was.