Straight Outta Compton

"Very Good"

Straight Outta Compton Review


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.

Jackson and Hawkins anchor the film as smart guys expressing themselves artistically about racial injustice. Mitchell's Eazy comes across as more of a party boy, while Brown and Hodge kind of merge into the entourage. Taylor adds some spark as the thuggish Knight, while Giamatti's autopilot performance is a fine counterpoint. Oddly, the film virtually ignores these men's personal lives (the female characters never emerge from the background), which leaves a gaping hole in the narrative.

Instead, the focus is on the music, and director F. Gary Gray builds a strong sense that these young men are struggling to impact an industry that doesn't yet know what to do with rap music. There's also a strong resonance to N.W.A's repeated rants against racist police brutality, something that's still a big issue 20 years later. This puts their most iconic track F**** Tha Police into striking context as an impassioned cry for justice, rather than the anti-cop tirade the establishment pigeonholed it as at the time. And this is the film's true strength: showing us a side of N.W.A we've never seen, so we can understand that the music industry isn't the only thing they changed.

Rich Cline

Watch the trailer for Straight Outta Compton here!



Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

In Theaters: Friday 14th August 2015

Budget: $28M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Cube Vision, Circle of Confusion

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 90 Rotten: 12

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Tomica Woods-Wright, , , Scott Bernstein,

Starring: O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, Neil Brown Jr. as Dj Yella, as MC Ren, Keith Stanfield as Snoop Dogg, R. Marcus Taylor as Suge Knight, Alexandra Shipp as Kim, as Jerry Heller, Angela Elayne Gibbs as Doris Jackson, as Block Dude, Allen Maldonado as Al, as Record Executive, Aeriél Miranda as Lavetta, Lauren Pacheco as Pool Party Girl

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