Review: “Straight Outta Compton” Is A Long Look at an Amazing Part of Music History

Rachel Smith ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr., Corey Hawkins, O'Shea Jackson Jr., and Jason Mitchell in Straight Outta Compton. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr., Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Jason Mitchell in Straight Outta Compton. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
It’s been almost 30 years since N.W.A exploded onto the scene, recreating the meaning of art with their aggressive but original sound. A group of five boys came from the streets of Compton, CA to grow into men that took the music industry by storm. This is the basic premise of the biopic Straight Outta Compton but it says so much more than a story of fame. It’s a test of friendship and the writers even slide in an important message about race and violence. It takes almost two and a half hours to tell this story, but it is one that deserves to be told.
Straight Outta Compton is like if a documentary and a basic narrative film had a beautiful baby. The camera acts as person at times, watching back and forth as old friends are joking with each, bringing the audience into the conversation.  At other times, it is a tool to separate the viewer from the action, especially when capturing intense moments of violence. This film is based on the five members of N.W.A and their superstardom, but it is also largely about their bouts with the law and the violence that they faced before/after they hit it big.
O'Shea Jackson Jr. in Straight Outta Compton. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
O’Shea Jackson Jr. in Straight Outta Compton. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella are individually introduced to start the film. The writers give a back story for each person so the audience can understand exactly where they’re coming from to be juxtaposed with where they end up. Eazy-E’s back story is such a crazy, technical scene that it kind of sets up the rest of the film to be dramatically shot. The LA riots were a huge part of N.W.A’s/America’s history so this was a really intricate scene to cover and the director did it beautifully. It is alarming to see how similar those riots from almost thirty years ago compare to what has been happening in the past year in Ferguson and Baltimore. This is the right time for a film like this to come out. Though it is based around the group’s affect on the music world, they also had an effect on giving people a voice and that still holds true today.
The casting of the characters is well done, a huge nod to the actors for seamlessly stepping into these roles and making them believable. It helps that Ice Cube’s look-a-like son plays him but everyone had general resemblances to their characters and their portrayal’s really brought it all together. This is largely thanks to the writers who captured their sense of friendship and brotherhood in the beginning. They had nothing to lose back then and you could feel that raw hopefulness and loyalty. The shift into their demise is slowly hinted at which makes the transition easier on the audience.
Straight Outta Compton. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
Straight Outta Compton. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
The rollercoaster of success was timed out well so the viewer really understood the whole process. However, in that same light, the movie is long. The director has three or four performances that possibly could have been reduced, but at the same time that is why people are going to see this; N.W.A was about music. The performances were also riveting and brought everyone up from the intense moments that inevitably come from this film.
Though it was all about the members of N.W.A it did fast forward into their lives after the group. There are cameos of a young Snoop Dogg and Tupac (which most of the audience gasped at the sight of because they thought it was actually Tupac.) Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor) and Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) are the villains of the film and are played convincingly.
This film is a tribute to the group that changed the music industry but it is also a tribute to Eazy-E who died from HIV in 1995. The film is dedicated to him in the credits, which was followed by audience applause. The whole film got different moments of applause whether it was from a performance, which were all true to the original recordings, or from a well timed joke between friends. Overall this film has a lot of great moments. Though it takes a chunk out of the day to watch, it’s definitely one to pencil into movie watching schedules.
Overall Grade: B+
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