Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Yates Jr., Paul Giamatti, Keith Stanfield,
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
Age Rating: R/15
Running Time: 147 minutes
The history behind one of the earliest and most significant groups in hip-hop and gangster rap is finally brought to life this summer in a two and a half hour mind-blowing biopic. STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON brings the truth behind the N.W.A to life. Complete with brutalities these young black men experienced at the hands of the police during the late 1980s and 90s, the controversy they would then go on to spark with their explicit lyrics directed at the law forces, and the rise and fall of the different members of the group, this feature film has it all.
Taking it back to where it all began, in 1987, Dr. Dre (played by Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (played by Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Eazy-E (played by Jason Mitchell), DJ Yella (played by Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) decide to drop their part-time jobs and illegal ways of surviving in Compton, California in order to put their brutally honest lyrics and hardcore beats to use and stand up to the authorities with their most powerful weapon; their music.
Director F. Gary Gray (FRIDAY, THE ITALIAN JOB, LAW ABIDING CITIZEN) instantly throws you into Eazy-E’s dangerous world, selling drugs and being chased by the Special Forces, and it is an exciting and astonishing emotion that Gray manages to keep throughout the film, and as a result, there is not one point where this experience seems to drag.
Jason Mitchell is brilliant as Eazy-E, the money and the main voice of the group, displaying great levels of comedy, swagger and leadership, but also greed and naivety which would eventually lead to his downfall. Credit also should be given here to Paul Giamatti, who once again puts in a stellar performance as talent manager Jerry Heller, who develops a close relationship with the group until contract arguments arise.
Corey Hawkins is a superb Dr. Dre, the producer and mastermind behind the group’s alliance, yet he is rarely depicted as an unlikable character and according to several assault charges, this should not be the case. Therefore, abusive scenes are perhaps needed here for Dre’s full transparency.
In fact, pretty much all of the cast are brilliant in their roles, especially the intelligent introductions of the perfectly cast rappers TuPac (Marcc Rose) and Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) into the group’s story, which add a sense of nostalgia to the experience. The breakthrough performance from Ice Cube’s real-life son O’Shea Jackon Jr. is undoubtedly the greatest of the film. Playing the role of his dad, he looks the same; he sounds the same, and he even displays the same mannerisms and attitude which Ice Cube is known for. Personally, I am ashamed at how little I appreciated Ice Cube before this film, as it truly was his lyrics, his frustration and his charisma which drove N.W.A. to greatness, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. captures all of this impeccably.
The film showcases a combination of outrageous and emotional scenes throughout and acts as a full-blown history lesson on racial discrimination in the south of the USA during the eighties and nineties. It takes you on the three main group members’ journeys, their fall outs and their regrettable actions and decisions.
Many will say that STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, like the group, glorifies drugs, gun use, the exploitation of women and disrespect of the police, but personally, it highlights the truth. N.W.A’s music was a way of expressing themselves, as well as the thousands of others in Compton at the time that experienced unexplained police brutality on a daily basis and grew up around drugs and hate. To censor music with this sort of content would be to live a lie.
One can tell that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have had some serious input into this film due to the perfect quality of music in this film. It is intuitively used throughout rather than just plugged at random points. Basically, every time a song is played, not only is it a crystal clear and ‘Beats’ quality to listen to, but it always has a relevance to the story, and this is something that many music biopics miss out on.
Take it from a guy who knew a fair bit about Dr. Dre’s background but barely anything about the N.W.A., STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is an exhilarating, gritty and addictive piece of cinema which truly showcases how a hip-hop biopic should be produced.
“The world’s most dangerous times created the world’s most dangerous group.”
Recommendation: STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is a MUST see for any hip hop fan out there! This film shows directors how a hip hop biopic should be created and the sound that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have helped produce for this feature can only be fully appreciated in the cinema!
Originally written for Screen Relish and adapted for personal use only. Thanks to them for the opportunity to write this piece.