Review: Straight Outta Compton

straight-outta-compton-posterWith most biopics the subjects are made to seem larger than life, however Straight Outta Compton is one biopic that manages to humanize prominent world known personalities. Straight Outta Compton tells the story of rap group NWA and follows the personal and professional journeys of group members Ice Cube(O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre(Corey Hawkins), Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright(Jason Mitchell), Mc Ren(Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella(Neil Brown Jr.).The film is directed by F Gary Gray who employs recognizable techniques from his previous films such as Set it Off, Italian Job, and Friday to bring character development, action, humor into the story to make a full rounded biopic which Straight Outta Compton certainly is. Given the two and a half hour running time of the film character development is where the story comes off the strongest. We get to really know Eazy-E as a hustler and drug dealer before the fame, and we get to connect with Dr Dre as as well as with Cube as a teenager, before becoming the film superstar and rapper he is today trying to stay out of trouble although hard when as a black man he is viewed as a criminal by police dude to the color of his skin, and the way he dresses but manages to express his feelings through words and not violence(film highlights Cube’s strengths as a writer both music wise and film wise), which still resonates today as it did in 1986 when the film begins.

Another strength of the film lies in unexpectedness. We get a very unexpected opening that you wouldn’t expect in a music biopic which makes one wonder “where the heck is this film gonna go with this opening”, throwing the audience for a loophole showcasing that the film is as much about “action” and “courage” then just music. The film is more about “courage”, then the music. “Courage” is highlighted in scenes where the group publicly stands up to law enforcement at a concert by performing F–k Tha Police, and even in individual instances like Ice Cube’s decision to leave the group, or Dr. Dre’s decision to leave Death Row.

When it comes to the acting in the film the three leads hold their own not imitating Dr Dre, Ice Cube, or Eazy-E but embodying. O Shea Jackson Jr. although portraying his father and bears a great physical resemblance to the elder Jackson it is his onscreen presence that trumps the physical portrayal. Jason Mitchell who never got the chance to meet Eazy-E, brings him back to life, and really gives us an understanding of who Eazy was as well as glimpses of who he could have been if he wouldn’t have passed. Mitchell’s performance highlights the slightly sarcastic side of Eazy but the sarcasm doesn’t come off as rude but instead personable as well as Eazy’s promiscuous side which we know leads to his downfall which makes Eazy all the more tragic figure. By the end of the film audiences will be rooting for Eazy to survive his public battle with AIDS. Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre is pretty spot on and at times will make you forget that you aren’t watching Dr. Dre himself onscreen. R. Marcos Taylor’s portrayal of Marion Suge Knight is one of the more believable portrayals of Suge in recent film history, and will have the audience understanding just how he was able to lure Dre away from Ruthless Records . However to note the stories and back-stories of group members Mc Ren and DJ Yella are never really developed in the film. The casting also got things just right visually when they picked actors to portray both Tupac and Snoop Dogg.

The one flaw of Straight Outta Compton is the omission of certain well known public flaws associated with certain prominent public scandals that members of the group had to face . At times the omission of certain instances can make the group members feel a little too good, but it’s a given being that Ice cube, and Dr Dre are behind the film and don’t want to put negative side stories that would detract from the film’s messages of courage and “friendships that are more like brotherly bonds” into the storyline. Straight Outta Compton is one biopic not to be missed.

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