Straight Outta Compton: A Review
Fans of the world most dangerous group and the music industry have been waiting for this story to be told for ages . The history of NWA was filled with real life drama that would rival any fiction novel. Success, violence and subterfuge, it actually baffles me that Straight Outta Compton wasn’t done sooner.
The murders of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown were sensationalized by social media and national media outlets. Awareness exploded to this epidemic of police brutality, and caused numerous movement and campaigns such as Black Lives Matter. I hope the scrutiny of the public eye will help reshape how our “law enforcement” treats minorities.
In 1988 you had no clue what was going on in Watts, Compton or South Central (or any poverty-stricken neighborhood) unless you lived there. Cops were ok for the most part, perhaps they’d fuck with you but it wasn’t life or death. Then Comes Straight Outta Compton, illustrating all types of crazy shit police were doing to underprivileged minorities.
With all the unrest regarding police violence in the black community populating social media and national headlines, The NWA Movie couldn’t be more timely.
F*** tha police
The Straight Outta Compton Biopic is based on of real live events surrounding the groundbreaking rap supergroup N.W.A (Niggaz Wit Attitudes). The story begins Takes you back to the eighties in south central Los Angeles, Drugs, gang violence, and police violence are at an all time high. We are introduced to the three pivotal members of N.W.A Eric “Eazy-E” Wright (Jason Mitchel) – a scrappy hustler/drug dealer, Oshea “Ice Cube” Jackson (O’shea Jackson Jr.) – a high school student that keeps his nose in a notebook writing rhymes,, and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young – a struggling, but talented DJ that has yet to find his sound.
We follow the trio and to some extent, their two lesser known members MC Ren ( Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), from their humble beginnings as they record their first hit Boyz-N-Da-Hood, fronted by Eazy’s drug money. This grabs the attention of super manager Jerry Heller. A partnership between Heller and Eazy blossoms. that quickly navigates N.W.A to massive success.
Life is good. the group bonds, and fights the good fight against the FBI and Police.
However seeds of uncertainty are sowed, as Ice Cube becomes increasingly vocal about not being paid. A thug named Suge Knight (R. Marcus Taylor) begins whispering in Dr.Dre’s ear that he isn’t being treated right.
As with any music biopic this leads to the typical downfall and eventual redemption of N.W.A.
Compton’s in the house
The first half of the film is incredibly poignant. the cast shines as they develop their characters. There’s a balance of drama and humor that works incredibly well. Dre’s loss of his brother that is incredibly touching and authentic. N.W.A challenging Detroit’s police force by performing “Fuck Tha Police” and their subsequent arrest, Throughout their tragedies and triumphs they tool on each other. This speaks to the groups braggadocio behavior and keeps the film from getting too heavy.
Performances are stellar all around, particularly O’shea Jackson Jr. playing the role of his father is chilling. this is perhaps what impressed me the most of Straight Outta Compton. You wanna blow your mind? Just YouTube any of the cast against their real life counterparts.
Go ahead I’ll wait.
Impressed? Yeah I thought so. There are plenty of biopics that have great performances in regards to the main character , but Straight Outta Compton has it down to its secondary and third string characters. D.O.C ,Warren G, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac had me checking the credits.
The first 45 minutes of this film had me hook line and sinker despite the inaccuracies.. For a brief moment i thought director F. Gary Gray learned how to actually direct a feature-length film.
Winners write history
With all biopic’s you expect a certain amount of revisionist history, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were executive producers on Straight Outta Compton.Gray is a notorious Ice Cube cronie, as his only success outside of his music video background is the undeniable stoner classic Friday.
With that being said, it’s not shocking that the movie becomes an ode to Ice Cube and Dre. Despite thier crossover status these days, they obviously want to protect their brand. Cube as a family man/movie star and Dre’s Beat’s fortune.
Sure I expected liberties to be taken, but what we have here is a complete whitewash of their characters. Dre is presented as Naive and completely innocent in the set up of Eazy-E, are we truly to believe that Dre had no idea that Suge Knight was a bad man? How did he think he would handle his contract situation, over tea? Worse yet Dre is also portrayed as a sensitive lover to his romantic interest, with no mention to his violent assaults (yes assaults) on the opposite gender.
Ice Cube was a notorious anti-Semite and misogynist, a listen to any of his earlier work can confirm that.
Of course none of this is brought up. Meanwhile liberties were taken in regards to Eazy-E’s life and the demonization of Jerry Heller.
Straight Outta Compton was accurate in the portrayal that Eazy and Heller were close, no doubt. There was actually several moments throughout the film where it truly shined. When Eazy spoke of having to kill Suge Knight (lifted from Heller’s book Ruthless without his permission),the moment was heartfelt and was moving. The overall arc had Eazy as a shill to Heller, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The best biopics are not afraid of the truth, and will portray both sides of each character, good and bad. Straight Outta Compton is an ego stroke, an ode to Ice Cube and Dr. Dre’s greatness, that gets quite tiresome by the third act.
100 miles and running
inaccuracies aside, Straight Outta Compton isn’t a bad movie, it’s unfortunate relevance today to the police’s treatment of minorities makes the N.W.A story incredibly poignant. A dynamic soundtrack and near brilliant acting performances give this film a voice that demands to be heard. Compton shines while the group is together and the audience is sharing in thier success and defiance of the establishment. The Rodney King riots and the infamous concert in Detroit are great examples of this in the film.
Ultimately where Straight Outta Compton fails lies within Director F. Gary Grays inability to understand how to direct feature films. Compton suffers from playing out like a stylish music video, too many scenes of excess and booty shaking.
Clocking in at two and a half hours, Compton fails to keep the momentum and tone of the first half of the film. Gray spends too much time lingering after the groups famed break up, filling it with unnecessary sub plots and appearances from everyone that was ever affiliated with the group. Yes, Snoop Dogg was an essential part of the story but was Bone Thugs N Harmony or even Tupac? Point being is there’s a ton of fat that should have been cut in this film.
The finale is perhaps even more unsatisfying, instead of the logical ending being Eazy-E’s funeral, Compton wraps up with Dr. Dre telling Suge Knight off. Not surprising that Gray chose to wrap up his love letter in this manner.