Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, R. Marcos Taylor, Paul Giamatti
Directed By: F. Gary Gray
Written By: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 27 min
I love that moment in the movie theater when you realize, you’re watching something special. For me, that came when NWA started performing. Until that point, what I saw was rough, very raw, and visceral. Untamed energy, that threatened to derail this production before one record was spun. Resulting in something that to me, looked like actors playing gangsta. With seemingly over-the-top hyperbolic dialog, and action straight out of a Die Hard movie.
But what do I know about Compton in the 80’s? A white kid growing up in a relatively safe town in the UK when NWA formed. In a country that doesn’t cherish its right to bear arms. On the outside, looking across ‘the pond’ listening to RUN-DMC, KRS One, Electro compilation albums, Public Enemy and of course, NWA. Enjoying what these artists were producing, without properly appreciating the motivation behind the lyrics in their songs.
Once we get past that awkward opening segment and the music starts, this movie’s energy gets some focus. We get fully immersed into the history of the group, as their immaturity, combined with a justifiably healthy mistrust of authority, collides with the challenges of success, and the nefarious characters it attracts.
Taking their source of inspiration, the dangerous streets of Compton, and superimposing it on the world of lucrative record contracts, wild parties and new rivalries. Straight Outta Compton does an excellent job explaining the inspiration behind this musical movement. But also doesn’t paint its lead players as complete victims or saints. They’re kids with lethal toys, thrust into a much larger world with bigger stakes. And this movie charts their progress as they mature, and learn to focus their talents to inspire creativity, and not recycle and escalate old zero-sum conflicts.
Having an appreciation for rap music is certainly key to enjoying this film. Straight Outta Compton is rated R for scenes of drug use, nudity and violence.
While the music is better enjoyed over a theater’s big sound system, visually, this is just okay. A HD screening on any device you like will service this film well enough. Just make sure you have the volume turned all the way up!
Best Moment: << spoiler if you know nothing about NWA! Specifically, Easy-E >>
The performances from O’Shea Jackson Jr (Ice Cube)., Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), and Jason Mitchell (Easy-E) are superb. Jason Mitchell’s reaction to his AIDS diagnosis was especially moving.