“Straight Outta Compton” tells the real-life tale of the Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.) and Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), and the rise and fall of their 1980’s rap group, N.W.A. Paul Giamatti also stars as F. Gary Gray directs.
I have been excited for this film ever since I saw the trailer in February (I don’t think saying I’ve watched it over 30 times since would be an exaggeration). It gave me the chills seeing rap legends’ names on screen, while at the same time getting me pumped up hearing all of N.W.A’s classic songs. So needless to say, I had high hopes for this movie, and it met if not exceeded near every one of them.
Right off the bat, “Compton” got its casting perfectly. I don’t think a casting director has ever gotten a shout-out in a movie review, but here’s giving one Cindy Tolan props, because she nailed it. Every actor in this film, most of them making their starring role debuts, looks like, sounds like, and full on becomes the real-life person they’re portraying. O’Shea Jackson, Jr. is Ice Cube’s son in real life, so saying this was the role he was born to play may be a bit of an understatement. Jason Mitchell also kills it as Eazy E, and carries two of the film’s most emotional scenes.
The first half of this film is some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year. It is filled with such energy, and following the group around in their early stages is both engaging and interesting. There are several concert scenes that you almost have to restrain yourself from standing up and joining in on the mosh pit of people swaying along to Ice Cube singing “F tha Police.”
Which brings me to my next point: much like “Selma,” this film, despite being set in the past, is very relevant to today. What N.W.A started from was the desire to voice their frustration about police brutality against minorities, and while the film certainly has its viewpoint on the subject from 20 years ago, it gives just enough food-for-thought about today’s society.
Side-compliment: I know only film junkies like me may care about this, but there is one scene inside a hotel room that is entertaining in its own right (including a hilarious one-liner upon its conclusion), but after the scene was over I noticed that it was all one take. So major kudos to director F. Gary Gray and cinematographer Matthew Libatique for pulling that off, I loved it.
The biggest flaws that “Straight Outta Compton” have are that of almost every musical biopic, but they’re less glaring here than in other pictures. While the rise and even the fall of the group is a fun ride, we then follow one artist in particular, and that is nowhere near as entertaining as when the band’s all together (think “Jersey Boys” only less love songs, more gangs). Also there are a few plot points that go completely untouched, such as Dr. Dre saying he needs to provide for his girlfriend and baby, and then we never see or hear about them after the 20-minute mark.
I really liked “Straight Outta Compton.” Like kind of a lot. The first half is darn near perfect filmmaking, and while the second half stops to take a few breaths (which is understandable, given the brisk pace of the first act) it never drags until the very last minutes. I think there is something in this movie for almost everyone, and if you don’t go out and see it you are honestly missing out. “Straight Outta Compton” is not just one of the best movies of the summer; it’s one of the best films of the year.
Critics Rating: 8/10