Blockbluster: Straight Outta Compton
Quick Summary: Telling the story of the groundbreaking gangsta rap group N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton is a fun ride, even if it does gloss over some things.
Genre: Biography / Drama / Music
Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti
Length: 147 minutes
Release Date: 2015-08-14 (USA), 2015-08-28 (UK)
More Info: IMDb
Straight Outta Compton – Official Trailer (Minor Spoilers, Sorta)
Straight Outta Compton erupted into theaters, earning $60 million in its opening weekend, and having already crossed the $100 million mark. As of this writing, it hasn’t even been released to the overseas markets yet (though by the time you read this it most likely will have). The movie was originally predicted to do only $20 million its opening weekend in the US, then that was raised to a predicted $40 million. As you can see, it managed to smash those expectations.
So is the movie worth watching? Well, that really depends on if you like N.W.A. or not. I can sum it up for you pretty simply: If you like N.W.A. then you’ll like this movie. If you don’t like N.W.A. then you probably won’t like this movie. Chances are I don’t need to tell you that. You’ve most likely already decided if you want to see this or not just based on what you think of N.W.A.
Spoiler: N.W.A. don't give a fuck what you think of them.
Me? I love N.W.A. They were the group that got me into rap and hip hop. I heard the song that this movie gets its name from, the title track from their groundbreaking debut, and it had me sold. It was angry, aggressive, and violent. It was many of the things that people decried rap music for, and that was exactly why I liked it. Their most infamous song followed on the album, Fuck Tha Police, which tackled the issue of racially motivated police abuse, (police misconduct being a pet issue of mine, this one really clicked for me). They were a group of five young, angry black men who went by the moniker Niggaz Wit Attitudes and embraced their ethnicity in a way that others hated them for. I’m one of the whitest guys you’ll ever meet, but it’s an attitude and mindset that I can relate to. “You think I’m a fucking nigger? Well, I am. I’m a nigga with attitude. Fuck you, what the fuck you gonna do about it?”
The movie itself does a pretty good job of telling the group’s story. As a person with a cursory knowledge of N.W.A. (meaning I read some Wikipedia articles on them), it manages to cover a lot of the main points that are well known to people familiar with the group, as well as showing some of the things that not everyone knows about. That said, it did feel as if the movie glossed over or skipped a few things. For starters, MC Ren was featured in the film less than I’d have liked. Ren complained about it on Twitter, feeling that he’d been left out of the movie and that his role in the group was minimized. I’m obviously not intimately familiar with the group enough to say what his role was, but I get the impression that he’s not wrong. The film is very focused on Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and Dr. Dre. Furthermore, there’s the issue of Dre’s abuse of women, which isn’t mentioned at all. For a biopic that aimed to cover the history of the group, it completely skipped some major shit Dre did, and it does seem like whitewashing the man. Things like that do make me wonder what else in the movie might’ve got tweaked a bit. I understand that things need to be cut for the sake of time, and the movie already runs 2 ½ hours, but it still feels like it needed more.
Let’s talk about the casting and acting. For starters, all the actors look just like the people they’re supposed to portray. Ice Cube is played by the man’s own son, so it’s not surprising that he looks the part. Obviously, this is the point in a documentary, and it’s always possible to find people to look a role, but I still feel it’s worthy of mention. The acting all around is pretty well done, and it feels like we’re watching Cube, E, Dre, and the rest.
The movie starts off going hard and fast, and it manages to keep up this momentum for most of the film. Sadly, it’s only most of the film, as the final portion does feel a bit slow at points once it starts dealing with Eazy’s illness and eventual death. Other than that, it’s paced pretty well.
I’ll conclude this review much like I started it: If you like N.W.A. then you should see this movie. If you don’t like N.W.A. then don’t bother. If you’re on the fence, give their 1988 debut album Straight Outta Compton a spin, and if it’s to your liking, then give this movie a chance.
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