A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: F. Gary Gray
Produced By: Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, Dr. Dre
Written By: S. Leigh Savidge (Story), Jonathan Herman (Screenplay)
Starring: O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti
Running Time: 147 Minutes
One of the most influential, iconic and gifted hip-hop groups of recent times, N.W.A’s story is one many would be unfamiliar with.
Although Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E may be familiar names, the story of how they came into prominence and immense success is one dominated by torment, grief, struggle and creative differences.
Straight Outta Compton is the biopic about the aforementioned hip-hop collective and could arguably be one of the year’s most unforeseen successes.
Set in 1980’s Los Angeles, Straight Outta Compton is the rags-to-riches tale that is anything but fantastical. Raw and unpleasant for the most part, the film paints a realistic picture about what it was like to be an African American growing up in the mean streets of Compton, L.A and facing prejudice, danger and violence every day, all the while dreaming of making something of yourself.
The five characters in question proceed to form N.W.A (“Nice People” With Attitude) and change the genre; perception and culture of hip hop forever. The group’s open distaste regarding authority sparks mass influence and rebellion amongst fans, which is revolutionary and highly significant when observing the bigger picture.
Lead through 5 transformative performances, F. Gary Gray’s directorial efforts have managed to extract an incredible amount of grounded realism from his cast. With certain scenes uncannily portraying events and characters from and associated with the group, there is an underlying illusion of documentary which is what every biopic aspires to achieve.
O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays his own father (a role he still needed to audition for) and the likeness is simply incredible. A chip off the old cube, Jackson Jr.’s mannerisms, inflection and nuances make his performance one of the best to emerge from 2015 thus far.
The performances of Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E are also ones to commend. Being familiar with the appearance of the real life Dre, there were countless moments when the likeness between Hawkins’ portrayal and the real thing were highly mistakable; it was scarily realistic more often than not.
Other familiar faces make appearances through acting portrayals including the late Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg (played by Marcc Rose and Keith Stansfield). Again, the likeness is incredible, but what is more impressive is the likeness in voice. Straight Outta Compton may very well be the most visually striking biopic in recent memory, purely for the perfect matching in cast and characters as far as appearance is concerned.
Paul Giamatti returns to the biopic genre for his second appearance in 2015. Playing a similar character to that of Dr. Eugene Landy in the Brian Wilson picture Love & Mercy, Giamatti portrays the favourable Jerry Heller; the band’s first ever manager who was willing to give five African-Americans a go during an incredibly difficult, troublesome and risky period in time. Faced with ridicule, racism and conflict, it is incredible to see Heller spring forward to defend the group through his deep passion and belief in their artistry. Needless to say, Giamatti is sensational in yet another supporting role.
There is so much to learn from Straight Outta Compton, much more than one would assume. Partly taking place during the historical Rodney King trials, the links between the group and the wider communities and social issues at large reinforce just how important and revolutionary N.W.A truly were.
Although some dramatisation and alteration of truthful occurrences is to be expected, the story of how the police treated African Americans and how the eternal struggle was eventually overcome is nothing short of breathtaking.
If there were to be any criticisms of the film, they would be that it appears to be slightly overlong and the inclusion of certain aspects related to the characters seems like a shameless plug.
That being said, everything within the story seems necessary and the aforementioned plugging adds to the rise and rise of these hip-hop/business juggernauts.
One of the most surprisingly energetic, thought-provoking and professionally crafted biopics to emerge from 2015, Straight Outta Compton has proven to be an immense success with audiences, spawning a new breed of N.W.A fandom, as well as hopefully a new appreciation for how much they as a unit risked to be the voice of retaliation, revolution and change.
Straight Outta Compton shows that there’s a lot that more to the story of these five men who simply wanted to express themselves…