This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through a checklist of the major events. There isn't much of a plot otherwise, which can be bewildering for anyone who doesn't know all of the people portrayed on-screen. But the acting and filmmaking is confident, which makes the movie feel strikingly relevant.
It opens in late-1980s South Central Los Angeles, a time when rap was dismissed as a little more than a violent chant. But artist Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) launches Ruthless Records with his manager Jerry Hiller (Paul Giamatti) as a way to promote the music he makes with his friends Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge). Working together as N.W.A, their album Straight Outta Compton strikes a nerve, selling millions even though its controversial lyrics make it impossible to play on the radio. As money starts rolling in, problems develop in the group. Cube is annoyed that Jerry isn't paying him a fair share of the royalties, so he goes solo. And later Dre also leaves to start his own label, Death Row, with hothead friend Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor).
The movie is structured as a series of set-pieces, usually drawing on the musician's camaraderie, which turns into rivalry, sparking tensions and some sort of verbal or musical battle, which escalates into physical violence. These are alpha-males who don't like being told what to do, so they struggle to trust each other. Their clashes begin to feel somewhat repetitive, but the actors are excellent.
Continue reading: Straight Outta Compton Review
Sean (Mark Webber) returns to his scruffy SoCal home after a year of college to find that his two no-good friends, macho foulmouthed Jason (Riley Smith) and nerdy filmmaker-wannabe Chris (Paul Dano), are right where he left them, hung over, stoned, and bored. Looking for something to do on a hot useless morning, the three drive over to the basketball courts to see about a pickup game. No sooner is the ball bouncing, however, than Jason is shot squarely in the chest by a young black boy and dies on the spot. We catch only a glimpse of the crime since we are sharing the point of view of Chris, who is flirting nearby with two skanky teenage girls who are willing to make out for his videocam.
Continue reading: Weapons Review
Mistaken identities pull Levy's character Andy into the plot - he's a kindly Wisconsin dentist traveling to Detroit to speak at an industry conference. Because he's standing at a particular diner counter holding a USA Today, a team of arms dealers led by a tanned Euro (Luke Goss) mistakes Andy for a potential weapons buyer. Now Special Agent Derrick Vann (Jackson) needs Andy's cooperation to seal the deal and retrieve millions of dollars of stolen guns.
Continue reading: The Man Review