Straight Outta Compton review
We are what our environment makes us. I grew up in a small town that has grown, but I like to imagine how different I would have become if my parents would have stayed in the Los Angeles area. Perhaps I might have been more troubled or perhaps not. I grew up in Long Beach for a few years before we moved, but I wasn’t old enough to have had any influence. The area wasn’t dangerous, or at least nowhere near as dangerous as the city of Compton was.
Compton, California tends to have a reputation as one of the most ghetto cities in the world. I don’t think it would be put on any list, but if you were to get off the 91 freeway twenty years ago for a car trip, it would be a bit easier to make a case. The entire city of Los Angeles was in a gang problem with the Crips and Bloods in an everlasting melee, yet Compton seemed to be the center of it. The area was a probably black community and it didn’t help that the law enforcement was anything but sympathetic and came around to simple harass. Coming Straight Outta Compton was a group that would use it’s message from the streets to create a different side of rap.
In Compton in 1986, five friends Dr. Dre (played by Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (played by O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), Eazy-E (played by Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (played by Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (played by Neil Brown, Jr.) form a new hip hop group N.W.A with the goal of putting their hard views of city living and gang warfare within their raps. Their first single, “Boyz-n-the-Hood” catches the ear of a music business man, Jerry Heller (played by Paul Giamatti) whose been looking to get back into management.
Eazy-E works out the deal with Haller, making him the manager for N.W.A. while Eazy-E starts his own label, Ruthless Records. Haller gives them the resources to make their next album, but the guys are still harassed by law enforcement. The album, Straight Outta Compton, is a smash hit, making the group popular by mainstream crowds and giving them their first tour. When not paid for his written work, Ice Cube leaves the group to embark on a solo career while Dr. Dre signs on to Death Row Records. Each guy takes different route in the music business as L.A. continues it’s crime problems leading to the 1992 L.A. Riots.
Bio pics are a dime a dozen and need a hook to stand out. Straight Outta Compton has the right beat and does well as a story…for a while.
The strongest elements here are the production value and acting. Straight Outta Compton has some of the best recreated concert footage since The Doors. When the concert in Detroit was commencing, I almost forgot I was watching a movie and that I was watching a documentary. All five boys resemble their counterparts in a way that adds to the documentary argument. Even watching O’Shea Jackion (who also happens to be Ice Cube’s son) sing “F**k the Police” was freaky with how much he resembles Ice Cube.
The movie is standard as a bio pic I would have ruled it as an entertaining piece of music history had it not been for the unnecessary last forty five minutes. Without giving away who it is, one character coughs and the movie embarks on the trope of padding it until they die twenty minutes later. It’s predictable and easily could have been cut and implied instead. As sad as a death in the family is, the movie needed to make it’s cuts and choices a bit better for the sake of a flowing story.
I’ll give it four Straight Outta Compton albums out of five. For what it is, I’m glad I saw this. It’s a needed look to understand why a song like “F**k the Police” would be made and how people would misunderstand it’s intention.