Coming off an opening weekend with a stunning $56 million at the box-office, F. Gary Gray directs possibly one of my favorite films of the year with Straight Outta Compton. In a chronological order of events, we experience the hardships and realities of the rap group N.W.A. and their rise and fall and rise again through their careers from their humble beginnings in Compton California, careers that included Ice Cube, Dr. Dre. Eazy E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren.
Hip-hop will always and forever be linked with drugs, flashy lifestyles, and violence, but it’s the side of the coin that no one gets to see that intrigues us here. Without a gratuitous level of nudity or violence, there is enough that serves the canvas of the story as it should be seen fit. Giving us the real life depiction of these characters in a time where exercising their freedom of speech met with backlash and consequences, I found I was deeply engaged with the well acted cast and adrenaline filled concert scenes.
In a day and age where you can’t turn the TV on without hearing of police brutality in America, the film, like their real life counterparts, have something to say. Immediately and abruptly thrusting the audience into the struggles of African-Americans in Compton California due to the crack breakdowns of the 1980’s, we are given a point of view from the men that made sure they were not silenced for what they witnessed in their surroundings, and it won’t matter what color or gender you are to feel the impact.
Telling different segments in the trio of Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube’s lives throughout the story, the standouts are spotted from the first few scenes alone. Not only do these men embody their characters nearly to a tee, but they give you the chance to feel what the real life rap group was feeling at the time. Another cast member that impressed me was that of Paul Giamatti in a role as the twisted and vulnerable music manager, Jerry.
Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre has a standout performance in my opinion conveying the tough but subtle Dr. Dre we know and love today, but also a human Dr. Dre which dims a light on issues we may have never known about the members of the group. Hawkins in particular gives a somber and cry worthy performance during the first act of the scene and O’Shea Jackson Jr. aka Ice Cube’s son is perfect for the role of his father. Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E is perfect from the Jerry-curl to the height and attitude.
Movies are made to entertain us and this film does that, but it is not wrong for us to learn something along the way. Insight into the lives of people we’ve known or know of in history become all the more polarizing when you get a chance to see the nitty-gritty of their personal lives. Though I felt the film jumped into the health issues of Eazy-E a little abruptly it doesn’t detract from the overall story and what all has been accomplished in the first two and a half acts.
This is not a “black film”, but a film with black people in it. The stereotype of “black films” is not only ridiculous, but incorrect in this case. More than black people have grown up hearing the voices of N.W.A. and it would be wrong to take that away from anyone his the least bit intrigued or a fan of this music group. This is a film that stands as a commercial piece of cinema and also an artistic vision through the eyes of one of the most influential music groups of all time. I am giving Straight Outta Compton an A.
I encourage you all to see this film and check out the history of gangster raps pioneers and the performances and stories brought to the screen. If you liked this review, like it and please follow me here at The Gunn Range for more and let me know your thoughts down below in the comments.