Straight Outta Compton is a biopic centering around legendary rap group N.W.A. The film chronicles the rise of artists Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) from the unforgiving streets of Compton, California to super stardom as hip-hop pioneers. All the while, bitter racial tensions flood the streets and the nation as the characters encounter multiple run-ins with police and follow the Rodney King trial on television.
Director F. Gary Gray and writers Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff use this biopic as a platform to engage in topical social commentary. The tension in the film between police and African Americans takes center stage in large swathes of the film, potentially to show just how little we have come as a country when it comes to racial divides and law enforcement practices.
These tense moments aren’t diversions, per se, but they become somewhat redundant as we see more of the same in these interactions. That said, some of these scenes, namely the Detroit show and the scene depicting the L.A. riots, are pulse-pounding and haunting.
The acting in the film is top-notch. The three stars play off of each other very well, and they dissolve into their characters with ease. The passion, humor, and camaraderie that the story asks for is made possible through the talent of these young actors. Paul Giamatti, too, puts in a notable performance as N.W.A.’s shady manager Jerry Heller.
What works against Straight Outta Compton the most is its runtime. As we go through each year of the characters’ careers, the pacing of the picture begins to slow. The narrative remains compelling throughout, but the movie feels overlong. The film could have benefited from trimming the fat, perhaps in the way of cutting some of the numerous party montage scenes or eliminating some of the side characters who are noticeably underdeveloped.
Straight Outta Compton is compelling. Watching the lead actors play off of each other is simply fun to watch. If you don’t believe me, just watch the scene early on in the film where they are in the studio and Eazy-E is trying to rap for the first time. Not only is it humorous, but it shows perfectly the brotherly bond between the group.
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Straight Outta Compton is currently available to rent/buy on Amazon Video here.
Have you seen Straight Outta Compton? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)