STARRING: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr., Paul Giamatti, Marlon Yates Jr., Corey Reynolds, Nate Ellington, Alexandra Shipp, Angela Elayne Gibbs, Bruce Beatty, Lisa Renee Pitts, Keith Stanfield, R. Marcus Taylor, Sheldon A. Smith, Carra Patterson, Elena Goode, Keith Powers, Mark Sherman, Camryn Howard, Cleavon McClendon, Rogelio Douglas, Jr., Steve Turner, Tyron Woodley, LaDell Preston, Jordan Can, J. Kristopher, Stephanie Campbell, Brandon Lafourche and Marcc Rose
The group NWA emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California, in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.
Straight Outta Compton follows the story of a group known as N.W.A over a seven year period from how their lyrical rhymes and hardcore beats not only made them a household name in Compton, but across the world. Focusing on how Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren formed the group under E’s label Ruthless Records, managed by Jerry Heller, and the inevitable fallout that followed.
It should be noted first and foremost that music biopics are normally not my thing and with following the fact that this is a musical biopic having the actual real life members (Dr. Dre and Ice Cube) being involved in the project had me skeptical on what would be left in and left out. While a few particular events in the history of the real life characters are left out (i.e Dr. Dre and Dee Barnes incident) Straight Outta Compton happens to be one of the best biopics I’ve seen in a long while.
F. Gary Gray manages to bring us a thoroughly entraining and gripping film while also giving us some terrific shots of Compton and glimpses to the life affecting the black community by the police especially during the late 80’s/early 90’s which seems as timely as ever with the current struggles between the community and the police in America at this time. Visually the night time sequences in Compton outside of gig venues and actual tour venues/sets are just a sight to behold with the N.W.A songs etc. hitting with real venom….I reckon being a fan of hip hop the film might work for the film viewer moreso than just a regular film viewer. Not only does he cover the impact of the group on a global scale but also that the music business can be just as deadly as live on the streets, from the financial dealings by the manager Jerry Heller, to the rise of Suge Knight and how he handles business in the industry. Granted in the overall scheme of things there’s a lot of ground to cover within a seven year period and while Dr. Dre and Ice Cube come off most of the time in a good light (particularly Dre from his rise and rise in the industry while at least with Ice Cube he’s dissing members of N.W.A and trashing Turner’s office), Eazy-E appears to be given a more layered coverage of balancing the fine line between right and wrong, particularly in how they close the grudges in the films final act.
With a fine script penned by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff and some great directing from F. Gary Gray, it still falls on the leads to provide the interaction and emotional intrigue into the characters and the young cast do a terrific job with Corey Hawkins providing a solid performance as Dr. Dre, O’Shea Jackson Jr. being a ridiculous version not only being a spit of his father but portraying him in a way that he did so that no one else could, he completely owned the role and as for Jason Mitchell…considering where Eazy-E goes in the films final act and how he portrayed the character generally, he has a bright future ahead of him. The supporting cast is also solid including Paul Giamatti as manager Jerry Heller who eventually causes the rift between the core members of the N.W.A and also R. Marcus Taylor really impressed me as Suge Knight. The cameo’s of certain hip hop figures (Snoop Dogg and Tupac for example) may prove to be a bit too much on the nose for some in the films final act but the overall story of how these group of young men were thrown under the microscope in instant fame is compelling viewing.
The film may be biased in some of the turns it takes (inevitable I believe) but strong performances from the overall cast, especially its leads, and the history into the revolution provided by N.W.A and terrific direction from F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton manages to be one of the most enjoyable experiences at the cinema this summer. 9/10