IMDB Film Summary: “In 1987, five young men, using brutally honest rhymes and hardcore beats, put their frustration and anger about life in the most dangerous place in America into the most powerful weapon they had: their music. Taking us back to where it all began, Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of how these cultural rebels-armed only with their lyrics, swagger, bravado and raw talent-stood up to the authorities that meant to keep them down and formed the world’s most dangerous group, N.W.A. And as they spoke the truth that no one had before and exposed life in the hood, their voice ignited a social revolution that is still reverberating today.”
I did not grow up around rap music. It just wasn’t apart of my little white, suburban upbringing. The most aware of rap I was as a child was the christian kind-of-rap group DC Talk. Well, they were “rap”-ish early on and that was when I first heard of them, so I’m gonna count it. I remember this one babysitter I had, her daughter was older than me and she was really into R&B and rap so sometimes I’d hear a TLC or Tupac song coming from her room but that wasn’t very often. It probably wasn’t until I discovered Outkast that I really became aware of real hip-hop and rap music. After that though, it became a pretty huge part of my life, in the sense that music in general is a really big part of my life. I even remember the first time I heard Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 album. I was at my friend Josh’s house and we played it over and over and over. I knew who Dre was, and that he was originally from NWA, but I really didn’t know the story of NWA. I eventually casually read up on them over time and learned more about who they were and what went on in their groundbreaking career, but Straight Outta Compton takes their story, all the ups and downs and insanity, and presents it in the best possible cinematic way.
First off, the casting for this film is flawless. Every single actor was perfect and there wasn’t one weak link, or phoned in performance in the entire movie. Especially Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. playing him. It could have just as easily gone bad and even though he looked the part could’ve been a terrible actor, but he’s not. He’s actually a pretty amazing actor. Then there’s Dr. Dre, played by Corey Hawkins. Dre’s always been the unassuming force-to-be-reckoned-with in hip-hop and Hawkins makes you 100% believe that quiet wisdom that Dre is known for. Eazy-E is played by Jason Mitchell and I don’t think anyone else could’ve been as magnificent as he was. The film shows you sides of E that you never would’ve know existed, like how he was kind-of funny, and it’s all thanks to Mitchell’s performance that we get that.
I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention how brilliant Paul Giamatti was as the group’s manager Jerry Heller. I mean, Giamatti is a brilliant actor anyway, but his performance here was just so perfect. You get the sense that while Heller was doing some less than noble things with the groups money, he always genuinely cared for Eazy-E and only wanted the best for him. I don’t think anyone else could’ve accurately depicted that conflict of character.
The film is directed by F. Gary Gray, who also directed Friday, as well as movies like Law Abiding Citizen, The Italian Job, and Be Cool. There’s a visceral sincerity in Compton that he captures so brilliantly. It’s very different that anything he’s done in the past and, dare I say, may be the best movie he’s ever made. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Friday is, like, a classic, but this movie has everything. It’s honest, and funny, and heartbreaking, and intense at times. The film is about how the NWA guys all came together, and the opening of the film shows Eazy trying to get paid for some drug deals but the cops show up to raid the house. Watching him and the other people in the house scramble to get out made me so nervous and I wasn’t anticipating that at all.
Ok, so this is the part I’ve kind of been eager to get to because I’d like to clear something up.
I think that there’s this misconception, mostly among stuffy old white people, that Straight Outta Compton is somehow a political response to all the racial unrest that we’ve become more aware of taking place across our country the last year or so. That is false. This movie is about NWA, and the men that were apart of it. Yes, there are parallels between what was going on in the U.S. at that time, the late 80’s/early 90’s and today, but Straight Outta Compton isn’t trying to make some statement about those similarities. If you think that, you are missing the point. Which is, these men made something of themselves in an era and culture that told them they’d never amount to anything. They overcame great social obstacles to achieve something they didn’t even necessarily intend to achieve… becoming the most groundbreaking rap group of all time. Without NWA and their fearlessness, it’s entirely possibly that modern rap and hip-hop music, as we know it, wouldn’t exist.
Straight Outta Compton is a damn-near flawless film. I found nothing to dislike about it, aside from some minor cinematography moments that, in my opinion, made those particular scenes a tad unbelievable film-wise, but never took away from the story’s credibility.
It’s currently the #1 movie in America and with good reason. Understandably, it isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you love hip-hop & rap music, or you just appreciate a really good underdog type story, then I highly recommend you see it.