If nothing else, this movie taught me the proper way to say “Suge Knight”. Now, I have knowledge to properly say “Suge Knight is a deplorable piece of shit who should’ve been thrown in jail years ago”.
Straight Outta Compton
Directed by: F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Set it Off, Friday)
Produced by: Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Scott Bernstein, Dr. Dre
Screenplay by: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
Story by: S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus,Andrea Berloff
Genre: Biographical drama
Starring: Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Paul Giamatti, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown, Jr., R. Marcus Taylor
Music by: Joseph Trapanese
Plot: Straight Outta Compton is the story infamous rap group N.W.A., from its inception to the aftermath of its dissolution, as well as the relationships between its members, Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr.) and those around them, as well as how the group impacted American culture.
We don’t talk much about music here on PKtM, especially ever since all the music experts in my employ were tragically lost in a completely non-suspicious mass suicide the day before I gave myself an enormous raise. All none of you who were around in those early days know that I’m not a huge fan of rap music. I like it fine, but my tastes are a little more, how should I put it, classic.
That said, I do like N.W.A. a lot, I appreciate the impact they had on Western society, and they did have quite the impact. So, especially with race relations being in the state that they’re currently at in the United States, it’s important that N.W.A. gets the biopic that, uh, America deserves, or whatever the fuck. And, while it doesn’t go quite as far as I would’ve liked in showing the, let’s say, unsavoury way some of the protagonists acted during and shortly after the N.W.A. era. But, I suppose that’s to be expected from a movie that’s produced by two N.W.A. members.
Aside from that, though, Straight Outta Compton does a terrific job of capturing that point in history for both American society and the lives of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy E (Because MC Ren and DJ Yella apparently weren’t worthy of screen time).
I literally just learned that that album was made in memory of Eazy E. I feel like a tremendous dick now.
Though the publicity would probably have you thinking otherwise, the movie is only about N.W.A. for, like, half of the runtime, at the most. The majority of Straight Outta Compton is more about the personal relationships and experiences, especially the
five three main characters, who are all portrayed by relative newcomers who, I’m happy to report, are fucking killin’ it. Julliard alumni Corey Hawkins is terrific as Dr. Dre (Even if I personally feel like his character is kind of underdeveloped, but I could just be reaching a little out of my range for criticism’s sake), and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. is also amazing as his actual real life father, Ice Cube, the guy who wrote “Fuck tha Police” and proceeded to play a cop in Ride Along and 21 Jump Street, because irony’s a bitch.
I’m generally against nepotism in every shape and form…
But I suppose there’s an exception to be made for every rule, and this is a pretty great exception.
My favourite performance of the three is Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. He disappears into the role even more so than the other two leads, which is saying a ton, believe me. I want him to be nominated for an Oscar early next year. That’s probably too much to ask, considering how marred in the 50’s the mindset of the Academy is. I can still have hope, can’t I?
And Paul Giamatti is amazing too as the group’s manager, Jerry Heller because, well, he’s Paul Fucking Giamatti and every time he’s given a substantial amount of screen time, he’s bound to be amazing, something Sony really took full advantage of when casting him as the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
In addition to the actors, the movie has a terrific atmosphere and tone. You can pretty much reach out and touch it, only to have it bludgeon you to death because the atmosphere of American culture in those days was incredibly intense. You can feel the anger in the air of 80’s Compton and the disillusionment that the lower-class black community of the era was/is rightly feeling. The soundtrack, composed of hip-hop and R&B tracks of the day also help, the fact that they’re kickass jams definitely not hurting. “Kickass jams.”Jesus Christ, my whiteness is showing, isn’t it?
Throughout the first half, Straight Outta Compton is a blaze of righteous fury, and I was seriously considering it one of my favourite movies of the year so far, up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out…
…And then the second half hit, and the movie screeches to a halt, becoming your generic, melodramatic biodrama. Don’t get me wrong, as generic, melodramatic biodramas go, it’s still fairly great, it’s just quite a bit of a let-down compared to the amazing first half. It’s essentially Fantastic Four if Fantastic Four started out terrific and ended up great, instead of starting off as the worst thing ever and ending as a worthless petri dish of awfulness that is now legally classified as a form of torture by the United Nation.
Overall: The second half is comparatively overwhelming for sure, but it’s not bad at all, and the incredible performances and the intensity of the first half more than make up for it.