#REVIEW: “STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON”
Every once in a while, we are gifted with a hard-hitting piece of Filmmaking which goes all-in and doesn’t hold back. In terms of Musical Biopics, they don’t come any more real than Straight Outta Compton. Hopes are high for the Hip Hop-Drama based on true events and at the center of it all are legends N.W.A. We meet the group, five ambitious young black men in the early ’80s, at a time when Rap Music was seen very much something of the underground. Compton, a city in south Los Angeles County, is plagued by crime and racism and we witness these young men reprimanded by the police for absolutely no reason other than racial profiling. This anger would fuel the violent and provocative lyrics behind the Gangsta Rap movement which N.W.A. had revolutionized.
The first Act of Straight Outta Compton, named after N.W.A.’s debut 1988 studio album, sees these men bonded by a common upbringing, hungry for their music to be heard. We meet a young Ice Cube (played by the Rapper/Actor’s real-life son O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), who link-up with Manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). Heller guides them to a record deal with a then-fledgling label, Priority Records. Success comes rapidly for N.W.A. as they go from packed clubs to arenas, fearless of controversy with hits like Fuck tha Police leading to a fearful confrontation with law enforcers, in once instance halting their show violently.
We see the distribution of power within N.W.A. soon shift, leading to an an internal shake-up and eventual disbandment. The feud goes rather public, musically and the words exchanged cut deeper than a machete. Much of the Film’s Second Act continues as we see both Ice Cube and Dr. Dre go their own separate ways to much success, distrusting the guidance of a persuasive Heller, who manages to retain Eazy-E‘s loyalty and this becomes the point of divide amongst the once-thriving Hip Hop outfit. And finally in the Final Act, we see hope reconciliation, but is it too late?
Director F. Gary Gray doesn’t often make Films, but when he does, he has something to say. His Films Set It Off, The Negotiator and The Italian Job all possess something unique to them and the same can be said about Straight Outta Compton. Ultimately, it makes no difference if you are a Fan of Gansta Rap or not. We become drawn-in by the anger, the ambition, the brotherhood encapsulated so well in Andrea Berloff and Jonathan Herman‘s authentic-voiced screenplay. Success comes furiously and in celebratory fashion, but the story also captures the disappointments and tragedy delicately. Through it all, we want nothing more than the boys to reunite like they were at their best.
Casting should be commended as a conscious decision was made to use faces unfamiliar to the mainstream, allowing the Ensemble a blank canvass to leave an impression upon. Brilliant are the Film’s three Leads, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell, all equally strong, embodying with great detail the men they portray. R. Marcus Taylor is ever-menacing and unforgettable as Suge Knight, while Giamatti is perfect as sketchy-but-sees-it-otherwise Heller.
Straight Outta Compton quite literally comes out of nowhere and lands itself among the year’s best. A powerful, educating piece which enthralls musically, as it makes an impactful statement socially.
Universal Pictures Canada release STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON on Friday, August 14, 2015.