Title: Straight Outta Compton
MPAA: Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use (would it be better any other way?)
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti
Synopsis:The group N.W.A emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California, in the late 1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.
Straight Outta Compton is a film that is widely considered one of the best of 2015, and was for a lot of people, a surprise success critically and domestically. For me personally, this is one of my favorite biopics of all time, and currently my third favorite film of 2015 behind Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road. After recently viewing it again, I am excited to share my thoughts on why it is so great and personally one of my favorite recent films.
This film is directed by F. Gary Gray, who creates the best film of his career. He does not shy away from exposing the good and bad of what went down with the group during their reign as hip-hop overlords. What I love about this film is how we see the rise and fall of this hip-hop group. As an audience, we learn how the group formed and how they became the influential group N.W.A. We learn how they were treated before they got famous, during, and after. For some of the members things turned out very well, but for others, things went very downhill. It is fascinating to watch everything payout, and is extremely intriguing from beginning to end.
There are five members of the group, but really only three of them are really showcased. Those three are Ice Cube, played by his son O’Shea Jackson Jr., Dr. Dre, and Easy-E. Jackson Jr. resembles his father extremely well, and during the scenes where he raps, he looks exactly like his father. He even has that classic snarl that his father is known for. It is a blast watching him on-screen, because he looks so much like his father, and it’s ironic at times, because there are scenes where he is with his son in the film, which is really him in real life. It truly is a head trip! The other two actors who portray Easy-E and Dr. Dre are Jason Mitchell (Easy-E) and Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre). These two actors give better performances than Jackson Jr. Where Jackson Jr. resembles his character more, Mitchell and Hawkins do a better job of bringing life to the characters they are portraying. Their acting is better and they make their characters their own, where Jackson Jr. seems to be most focused on impersonating his father. With that being said, I think all three of them do a great job in this film, and really overshadow the other two actors who are a part of this group. That would certainly be one of my flaws with this film, where the other two members of the group are forgettable and don’t have enough memorable scenes. It doesn’t concern me too much though, because they are the least significant members of the hip-hop group in real life.
This film was only nominated for one Academy Award for best original screenplay. The writing certainly is phenomenal. There are times where I am reminded of watching The Wire, where the way the characters talk in the film truly resemble how they would act and communicate in real life. The scenes that take place in Compton are all fantastic, and what goes on between the African-Americans and police officers are portrayed accurately and honestly. This proves why this film is as important as ever. The way African-Americans are being treated by inner-city police officers to this day is still frowned upon at times and very controversial. This film might be about a hip-hop group, but it means so much more than that. That is about the highest praise I can give it.
Overall, Straight Outta Compton is a powerful film, that on the surface is a biopic about a popular, revolutionary hip-hop group, but underneath is a reminder of the mistreatment of minorities by higher authorities (something that is still relevant today) and the history lesson of big events that took place in Los Angles during the early 90s. There is actually a sequence in the film where they re-created the LA Riots and reminded us how horrifying and horrendous it was. After watching this film, one will learn the history of N.W.A., the civil disobedience in the late 80s and early 90s, and what goes on behind the scenes in the music industry. I forgot to mention Paul Giamatti who gives a fantastic performance as the controversial producer, Jerry Heller. He formulates empathy for his character, which is something few actors would have been able to do. As a big hip-hop fan (especially of the 90s) there were a lot of cool, little easter eggs throughout the film that I found very enjoyable. Anyone who is a fan of 80s and 90s hip-hop obviously should enjoy this film, but it also is very well made and acted. So, fans of film will enjoy this too, even if they aren’t fans of the music genre. This film truly is so much better than it needed to be, and I would like to thank F. Cary Gray and everyone involved for giving us such a great film! My grade is: