REVIEW: Straight Outta Compton (2015)

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2015, Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/New Line Cinema/Cube Vision/Crucial Films/Broken Chair Flickz

Director:
F. Gary Gray
Producers:
Matt Alvarez
Dr. Dre
Scott Bernstein
F. Gary Gray
Ice Cube
Tomica Woods-Wright
Writers:
S. Leigh Savidge (story)
Alan Wenkus (story)
Andrea Berloff (story and screenplay)
Jonathan Herman (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Matthew Libatique
Editing:
Billy Fox
Michael Tronick

Cast:
O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube)
Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre)
Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E)
Neil Brown Jr. (DJ Yella)
Aldis Hodge (MC Ren)
Marlon Yates Jr. (D.O.C.)
R. Marcos Taylor (Suge Knight)
Carra Patterson (Tomica Wright)
Alexandra Shipp (Kimberly Woodruff)
Paul Giamatti (Jerry Heller)
Sheldon A. Smith (Warren G)
Lakeith Stanfield (Snoop Dogg)
Cleavon McClendon (Jinx)

The story of pioneering rap group N.W.A. is depicted in this really dramatic look at the group and individuals involved in their rise to fame, eventual breakup and short lived reunion.

The year is 1987 and the place is Los Angeles. In the area of Compton, five best friends find themselves under constant harassment by the L.A.P.D. based solely on their looks. However, these five decide to fight back through a different medium other than violence. They decide to fight back with music. The five, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren soon become the N.W.A. Under the management of Jerry Heller, these five unleash their new style of rap music to vent out their anger and go on to become of music’s greatest groups.

However, while the group rises to fame, they are met with constant resistance from all sides. From the FBI threatening the group not to perform their number one song, which they believe advocates violence against law enforcement to shady operations behind the scenes, the members slowly begin to dissent, ultimately ending the run of the group. While Ice Cube and Dr. Dre soon become successful in their solo careers, Eazy-E soon discovers someone he once trusted betrayed him and decides to reunite with his former friends only to discover he will have an even bigger battle to face.

This biopic, revolving around one of rap’s greatest pioneers, is an intricate look at the group N.W.A. in a rise and fall story that takes place between the years 1987 to 1995. With support from original members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, along with Eazy-E’s widow Tomica serving as producers on the film, this gives the viewer a chance to see one of the greatest music groups in history brought to life.

The story can be constructed not into a three but rather a four act film. The first starts with the members of NWA deciding to form the group and use their music as their way of fighting the injustice that plagues them. The second is the rise of the group, which culminates with their iconic song “(Censored) the Police,” which despite being a hit causes trouble for the group. The third act is the eventual demise of the group, beginning with Cube’s defection into a successful solo career as rapper and actor to Dre’s defection and formation of Death Row Records with Suge Knight, played in a great performance by The Martial Arts Kid and Paying Mr. McGetty actor R. Marcos Taylor. Interesting note is that Taylor would attend the Oscars to play Knight again in a series of short skits. The fourth is the eventual reunion and Eazy-E’s battle with AIDS, which he lost on March 26, 1995. The film is dedicated to him.

Casting is important to make a huge film of this caliber and compared to band “biopics” like Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story and others, this is an epic compared to that. It will come to no surprise that O’Shea Jackson Jr. truly has a resemblance and is perfect for the role of Ice Cube. Because he is the son of Ice Cube himself and preparing for two years to get the role really paid off. Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell really give it their all in the roles of Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, especially the latter in the final act of the film. While the NWA cast is rounded out by Aldis Hodge and Marlon Yates Jr., the primary focus looks to be on Dre, Cube, and Eazy with Paul Giamatti playing band manager Jerry Heller, in which the real-life Heller had filed suit claiming his portrayal was false before his September 2016 passsing.

Clocking in at about two and a half hours (nearly three with the unrated director’s cut), the film is structured so well that once the viewer is done, it will not feel like a near three hour film. So in other words, if you want to a good music biopic, then put Straight Outta Compton on your list of films. The cast is great in a very smoothed out story about the pioneering NWA.

WFG RATING: A+

DVD/BLU-RAY

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