To say that N.W.A. isn’t one of the most influential groups of the last century would be a massive understatement. Hip Hop in its’ infancy had never seen or heard anything like the group from Compton, CA. Portraying what real life was like on the streets in the mid to late 80s, the group gave a voice to an otherwise oppressed group. They completely changed the sound and pushed boundaries of what rap and hip hop could be. Ushering in the sub-genre of gangster rap. Easy-E and the boys were just honest in their delivery of their now iconic tunes. The group is responsible for some of entertainment’s biggest names as well including Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. It should be as no surprise when their biopic, named after their first record, hit theaters in August of 2015.
Straight Outta Compton chronicles the rise, the fall, and the nearly possible reunion of the gangster rap pioneers, N.W.A. At its’ core, the film spends the majority of its’ time focusing on Ice Cube, Easy-E and Dr. Dre. Each individual arc goes into some pretty crazy areas for their respective careers. Which included the infamous “No Vaseline” dis tracks, battle raps, the ultimate split of the group, the era of Death Row records, Cube’s film career and the untimely death of Eric “Easy-E” Wright. The narrative takes its’ time to truly build and breathe. With a near three-hour run time, Compton is balancing on the line of perfection and not quite good enough. Focusing almost exclusively on the core three – the film can never truly reaches its’ potential by sidelining the other members of N.W.A. which helped usher in their signature sound. DJ Yella, played by Neil Brown Jr., and MC Ren, played by Aldis Hodge, feel a bit more like the frequent cameos from the band’s groupies than they do actual members of the band.
One thing that director, F. Gary Gray, does extraordinarily well with Compton is the well-rounded landscape of the movie. The attention to detail of the culture adds a layer of both depth and beauty which helps the film to stand out in the biopic genre. Within the second act, the film slowly starts to introduce the cultural outcry of Rodney King’s brutal beating by LAPD officers on March 3rd, 1991. Ultimately the film follows closely with the trial and the final decision of innocence found of the four Caucasian LAPD officers which led to the LA riots in spring of 1992. The majority of adding King’s trial and misjustice to the film solidifies’ the message and vision of N.W.A. The placement of the footage always feels nature. Though, it’s when the film culminates the storyline in having Cube, Dre and E drive through the riots – the film seems to stop for a moment. It just feels out of place and out of sync with the majority of the movie.
Compton never pulls its’ punches at all. Showcasing the raw, real and unjust nature of living in L.A. in the late 1980s’ as an African-American and the hurdles the band faced upon their rise. To truly bring justice to this groundbreaking story and group, you need a visionary filmmaker, which you have in Gray. You also need a strong cast who can deliver the emotional and raw nature these characters deserve. When you have O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell – respectively playing Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Easy-E you can expect a series of cinematic powerhouse performances. Each young actor delivers extraordinarily powerful arc. Not to mention that the chemistry and discord is impressive between the three.
Overall, Straight Outta Compton, is a nearly flawless cinematic journey through the rise and fall of one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time. Much like its’ source material, this biopic of the band delivers a raw, honest and emotional film. With leads in O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins, Compton is anything but forgettable. Director F. Gary Gray crafts an all-encompassing world of racism and injustice; the attention to detail makes for a more impactful cinematic experience. However, there are some narrative choices with side characters which get sidelined a bit too much. Not to mention the culmination of a minor story line within the film that feels out of sync from the rest of the film. Still, Straight Outta Compton, is a bold and fearless treat that every moviegoer should watch at least once in their life.
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