RELEASED: 28th August 2015
DIRECTOR: F. Gary Gray
CAST: 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, Lakeith 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
BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $201.6m
AWARDS: None (1 Academy Award nomination)
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.
Music biopics tend to follow the same generic pattern of following the rise and fall of the artist or group that it’s based on. 2015’s Straight Outta Compton however just explodes from the opening scene with thunderous energy that you can’t help but be swept up in it. It’s no secret that the power of the film lies in the first half, as we see how these individuals, Andre Young, O’Shea Jackson, Eric Wright, Lorenzo Patterson and Antoine Carraby come together as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella and form the N.W.A, a gangsta rap group that would go on to become one of the biggest and most influential groups in the history of hip hop. We get glimpses into their daily lives in Compton, California, surrounded by crime, gang violence and police harassment and as we witness their stardom rise, the night sequences very well captured (thanks to Matthew Libatique’s cinematography) and the tour venues/sets are brought to life brilliantly (thanks to Shane Valentino, Christopher Carlson and Jeffrey Kushon). The direction from F. Gary Gray is great here, from the tour performances to the booth, you can feel the passion that he has behind the lens in telling this story, especially considering his previous history with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube (he previously shot a number of their music videos). What makes the film really work however is its ensemble, especially when it comes to the casting of the N.W.A members. Corey Hawkins is really good as Dr. Dre, a young man just looking to make it as an aspiring DJ that becomes swept up in the fame yet maintains that passion for producing music. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is bloody great in the rather ridiculous situation of playing his father (Ice Cube) in the film, he’s the spitting image of him and his bravado with his ‘reality raps’ just bursts through the screen. Aldis Hodge and Neil Brown Jr. are really good as MC Ren and DJ Yella. In terms of being the heart of the film, I felt that came down to Jason Mitchell’s performance as Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright. Mitchell’s performance as Eazy-E immediately captures your attention, from the opening scene of a drug deal gone bad, to when he learns that he’s diagnosed with HIV, his range is showcased throughout and it saves the second half of the film, particularly in how the film explores his friendship with N.W.A manager Jerry Heller, played by Paul Giamatti whose also excellent here. It’s a relationship that we’ve seen in many music biopics before, but there’s a layer of legit caring between the two of them that when the inevitable comes, you actually feel it. There’s plenty of moments displayed here to capture about nine years of hip hop history and give audiences a nice nostalgia trip, but the overall story of how these group of young men were thrown under the microscope during instant fame is absolutely compelling viewing.
FAVOURITE SCENE: Eazy-E learns at the hospital after his collapse that he has HIV and that he doesn’t have long left to live. From the way the dialogue is delivered, to how the camera lingers on Eric Wright after the doctor leaves the room, the sequence is executed perfectly and Jason Mitchell is excellent in this scene.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Ain’t that some shit? Speak a little truth and people lose their minds.
See, the truth is, they can do whatever they want with them. They bought them motherfuckers.” – Ice Cube & Eazy-E
DID YOU KNOW: The original cut of the film was 3 hours and 30 minutes. The cut scenes included Dr. Dre’s infamous beating of journalist Dee Barnes, the incident where Dre was shot four times in the leg, and a graphic flashback of his younger brother’s death.