Straight Outta Compton
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Written by Johnathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus
Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, and Paul Giamatti
In the mid-1980’s in Compton, California, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E (Jackson Jr., Hawkins, and Mitchell respectively) for the hip-hop group N.W.A. After finding success with their first self-released single, they catch the attention of a manager (Giamatti) and release their debut album, which results in N.W.A. revolutionizing the hip-hop genre.
The strengths of Straight Outta Compton are primarily the cast. Jackson Jr., Hawkins, and Mitchell all gave strong performances that embodied the people that they were playing. Granted Jackson Jr. was playing his father, Ice Cube, which was a non-issue because Jackson Jr. committed to telling his father’s story. All three of the leads were determined to tell the story, and that is why I believe that they were able to give the level of performance that they did. Giamatti is one of those actors that are good in anything you give to them. The other strength in Straight Outta Compton is the direction of F. Gary Gray. Gray delivers not only a fascinating music biopic that is about a group that changed their genre, but also provides a film that is socio-politically relevant. Over the last year, there has been growing media coverage of confrontations between law enforcement and young black men gone awry. The same kind of encounters that in 1988, led Ice Cube, MC Ren, and The D.O.C. to write the song “Fuck the Police.” Gray manages to let the film tell you that this one of the themes in the movie, but it is not the primary focus of the movie. The focus of the film is always on the story of Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre.
The weaknesses of Straight Outta Compton are that by the third act of the film, it begins to lose steam. The movie comes out swinging, with the circumstances surrounding the rise and dissolution of N.W.A. However, when the film reaches its third act it gets bogged down with too much business stuff. The Dr. Dre story shoehorns in Dre’s association with other iconic hip-hop artists of that era like Snoop Dogg and Tupac. Gray was unable to keep the momentum that he had built up in the first two acts going in the third.
Straight Outta Compton is a fascinating music biopic, which features a strong cast and relevant themes. Although the film does lose steam in the third act by getting bogged down with business and the ancillary Dre stuff. Straight Outta Compton receives a 4.25/5.