“Straight Outta Compton” is a 2015 biographical drama based on the notorious hip-hop group N.W.A. The film is named after their 1988 debut studio album. Director F. Gary Gray took over after John Singleton fell through as director. It stars O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Paul Giamatti.
The plot revolves around the rise and fall of hip-hop group N.W.A. in Compton, California. These five friends rapped about real life issues and events concerning racism, police brutality and other controversial topics.
Gray captured the uniqueness among the group and the troubles they found themselves in. He was able to craft an engaging story with relatable characters that aren’t completely saints themselves. Gray’s has worked with some members of the N.W.A., directing Ice Cube in “Friday,” Dr. Dre in “Set It Off” and music videos featuring both musicians. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre felt safe and secure to let the man that has helped them in the past tell the story of the most important years of their lives. N.W.A., while only being together for five years, left a huge stamp on the hip-hop industry and influenced the genre for decades to come.
O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays his real life father, Ice Cube, in the movie and did a wonderful job. The resemblance was uncanny and added a realistic aspect. Corey Hawkins (“Non-Stop”) plays Dr. Dre and captured the troubled yet hopeful personality of a teenager trying to climb out of the mess and provide support for himself, his friends and most definitely his family. Jason Mitchell (“Broken City”) plays Eazy-E, who stole the show and was the clear stand out. Mitchell was electric and emotional as needed, providing different vulnerable sides to Eazy-E. Paul Giamatti (“Amazing Spiderman 2”) plays N.W.A.’s manager, Jerry Heller. Giamatti showcases his talents by acting brave and courageous, standing up for the group, but it turns out that he is using the group for his own benefits. MC Ren (Aldis Hodge, “Leverage”) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr., “Fast & Furious”) were fine, but the main focus was on Ice Cube, Dre and Eazy-E. Gray did a magnificent job giving time and development for the protagonists with a clear start and finish in each of their respective journeys throughout their careers.
Chemistry between the five was superb, but specifically between the main three. But as with every rise and fall story, the fall starts to be evident when too much power and ego get to their heads. That is present when the group starts becoming successful and everyone isn’t seeing eye to eye on certain terms pertaining to contracts and finances. This causes a split and the end of N.W.A. as we knew it.
All these issues are reflected prominently in their music as they discuss topics other people would be nervous to. The roles in the group were made very clear and they all preformed beautifully. The tone and atmosphere was energetic and a blast to watch. The style and direction were clear despite so much going on.
The theme of artistic vision is heavily used throughout the entire film. That’s what the message of N.W.A. was all about. They were all for expressing the truths that the media didn’t cover. They were smart enough to say it using catchy rhymes, satisfying beats and profanity that appealed to mass audiences.
One negative aspect of the film is the pacing and tone in the third act. The upbeat energy wasn’t maintained, but given the true story of these young men, it wouldn’t have been exactly appropriate. Nonetheless, it still dragged in minor scenes.
“Straight Outta Compton” is a very good film that covers events of an influential hip-hop group that weren’t afraid to say what was on their mind. Just like every true story, some things were left out, but director Gary Gray took the essentials and made a compelling story that resonates with audiences worldwide. Some people may not be able to relate to everything that transpired, but the film’s artistic vision is respectable.
Rating: 4 out of 5