Straight Outta Compton continues Universal’s box office thrashing this year, bringing the studio another gigantic hit with the musical biopic based around rap group NWA. The film revolves around rappers Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jnr), Dr Dre (Corey Hawkins) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jnr) and their formation of the NWA and their dreams to get out of their violent and drug laced home town of Compton. The film is a biopic and has some of the most confronting and disturbing scenes I have seen in a film this year.
The film opens in the late 1980’s with Eazy-E selling drugs to get by, a police battering tank rips through his dealers house, while Eazy takes to the rooftops to escape, sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the film. Ice Cube and Dr Dre are similarly filmed in scenes where they are literally walking out of their front door to go to school where Police are waiting to pat them down and hassle them for no apparent reason other than their appearance. It is brutal, confronting and incredibly awkward to watch.
When the three decide to pool their talents together with Eazy E putting in the initial money to fund their first record, Ice Cube writes the lyrics and Dr Dre producing, it is a magic mix that ensures a hit single and things blow up from there. Their controversial playlist including songs like “Fuck The Police” cause a swarm of controversy from both law enforcement and the general public. The band’s white manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) is one of the film’s more intriguing characters, he has a side that believes in the band and their message, and another dirtbag, stereo typical band manager side that wants money, fame and power. Seeing this dynamic play out in screen is fascinating and gives the film some of its highest points. Particularly when Heller uses his “white privilege” to get the boys out of some trouble with the police and the struggle between police and black men really blurs the lines between the 80’s and scenes from the news in recent times. Being a white, private school educated Australian, I feel inept to comment on anything further in relation to race in this movie, apart from saying that this opened my eyes to the extent and long history that this behaviour has had (while introducing me to some great music as well!)
Acting wise I could not fault anyone in this, the leads all bring their A game here, and as the film shifts from teenager to adult-hood, the actors step up their game again which works wonders for this film. While the film does have an intriguing introduction, there is a whole bunch of litigation scenes in the middle that unfortunately drag on without being too interesting, the film dose start to sag and could probably have shaved off half an hour to keep it at a faster pace, but this is really the only nag I could find about this film.
Overall Straight Outta Compton delivers a solid musical biopic, retelling the story of the NWA and the struggles these inspiring artists went through to get to where they are today, is inspiring to see play out on screen. Fans of their music will relish in the re-telling, and audiences new to them will relish in the journey these young men, who were brave enough to stand up and be honest went through. With a musical accompaniment that will sell millions, Straight Outta Compton is the fourth film I have given 5 stars to this year. Make sure you see this in cinemas!
Review by Alaisdair Dewar