Straight Outta Compton
Starring O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, Neil Brown Jr., R. Marcos Taylor,
We have had 3 reboots to Spider-Man, something we all know like the back of our hand, but it’s curious that not once has a filmmaker before Straight Outta Compton explored the story of America’s first real rap group. Most of us are familiar with the names Dr. Dre in the music world or Ice Cube and his successful comedies, but their origin story told in dramatic fashion here is both an inspiring story and a sad one. O’Shea Jackson is the son of Ice Cube and who better nail the mannerisms than the one person who looks the most like the entertainer. It might appear that Straight Outta Compton would be aimed at a select audience, but having a knowledge or interest in rap music isn’t required, much like you don’t need to like country music to enjoy Walk the Line.
From the beginning it was Ice Cube’s lyrics, Dre’s beats that created that unique sound, but they needed someone to help take their musical creation from the back bedroom in Compton to the front stage of the world. Eazy-E (Mitchell) was their connection to progress, having already created a name and persona for himself in the community. His connections with Jerry Heller (Giamatti) who would help them get their first record deal would end up being a blessing and a curse. Like most musical groups of the early 90’s, money, power, fame and excess began to divide the chart topping group NWA. It would be self-inflected tragedy that would bring all the members back together.
Interest in rap music isn’t required, much like you don’t need to like country music to enjoy Walk the Line.
The director and writers do a good job at bringing the viewer into a situation these guys desperately want to escape. For the first half of the film the energy is high as we are thrust into a pretty dark world of drugs, sex and rap music. The narrative takes a prolific and socially relevant turn when it explores the unfair treatment from LAPD and other law enforcement. Sadly the film doesn’t continue this narrative beyond what a hit “F*** the Police” became. Straight Outta Compton isn’t a musical nor does it linger on musical performances, we occasionally see Giamatti’s character mouthing some of the lyrics for comedy purposes, but the focus always remains on the narrative, all 150 minutes of it.
“Why I gotta be the bigger man”, Eazy-E says, struggling to refrain from “Compton” type violence to solve a dispute with mogul Suge Knight. We watch these creative young artists grow, sometimes in painful ways, and whether sugarcoating it or not (it’s produced by Ice Cube & Dr. Dre), their failures and mistake can serve as influences for the impressionable demographic. I am a firm believer in film serving higher purposes than entertainment, sure Straight Outta Compton isn’t going to appeal to the same crowd buying tickets to Pirates of the Caribbean or Meryl Streep’s latest, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something in here for those audiences too.
Culturally relevant and surpassingly emotional, albeit a bit lengthy.