N.W.A. was without a doubt one of the best and most innovative hip hop groups. A lot of people usually tend to harp on and on about how they are most famous for making gangsta rap mainstream. They came out at a time when hip hop was considered more party music and they offered an attitude and a message for young black males who felt disenfranchised by institutionalized racism which was brought on by law enforcement and government. That is a big part of the story but they, specifically more Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, also deserve a ton of credit for the technical talent and abilities they brought to hip hop music. Ice Cube delivered a raw and angry lyrical delivery that felt real and intense while Dr. Dre brought very melodic and creative production. When I heard a movie was being made about N.W.A. I was only hoping they would be able to cover all the important stuff. They are able to deliver exactly that in a long two and a half hour movie that for the most part works on every level.
Straight Outta Compton is about N.W.A. (N***as With Attitude) which started out as an all star hip hop group consisting of some of the best talent in Compton. The group consisted of Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.). The movie spans ten years from 1986 to 1996 and follows the group through many important events throughout their career. It covers their lives living in the tough neighborhoods of Compton and the formation of Ruthless Records which Eazy-E started with manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). It also covers the turbulent relationships between the members which comes about from the success and money they gained by becoming one of the most popular hip hop of all time.
I was really hoping this movie would be good and really show the importance of this group to not just hip hop but to American culture itself. The scenes that show the group getting targeted by police officers are tense and effective. It is a very accurate depiction of young black males getting harassed by authority which was common back then and still common to this day due to institutionalized racism perpetuated by horrible drug laws backed by both political parties. The scenes with the police build up to a notorious concert in Detroit which is probably the best sequence in the entire movie. The movie goes on from their though with snapshot events of their careers and the breaking up of the group due to contract disputes. It is in this second half of the movie where Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, both who act as producers for this movie, are kind of self-aggrandizing a bit too much.
The second half of the movie is framed in a way to make Dr. Dre and Ice Cube look probably a bit more innocent than they actually were when it came to the violence that was associated with them. For instance the movie completely leaves out an incident from 1990 where Dr. Dre brutally beat up a woman television personality named Dee Barnes who interviewed Ice Cube after he left the group. Dr. Dre felt N.W.A. was portrayed poorly in the piece and assaulted her at a record release party in L.A. The movie also shows that all the violence going on at Death Row Records was only perpetuated by Suge Knight. Now even though Knight is a pretty horrible person it feels like Dr. Dre is letting Knight take all the blame. Overall I think the movie does a good job at chronicling all the important events as it pertains to the group. Sure it may leave out details that would show the members in a worse light, but it’s their movie and I guess I’d be dumb to expect a now rich Apple executive to hurt his brand by being honest and expose himself a bit even though being honest and exposing violence and corruption by powerful people is what made N.W.A. so great.
Despite all the problems this movie had in the second half the movie is cast really well. Corey Hawkins plays Dr. Dre and is decent in the role although it’s hard to tell how accurately he is playing Dr. Dre due to the fact that Dr. Dre isn’t all that public of a person. Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. is really good playing his father and is able to get the classic Ice Cube facial features down to a T. Out of the entire cast though I have to say that Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E is incredible. Eazy-E was always known as a very charismatic person with a distinctive voice and Mitchell absolutely nails every aspect of Eazy-E. Eazy-E as a character in this movie comes off as full-fledged even more so than Ice Cube or Dr. Dre mostly due to the reasons I gave in the last paragraph. The manager Jerry Heller is wonderfully played by fantastic veteran actor Paul Giamatti and despite all the bad blood Heller had with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube I think he got a mostly fair portrayal here in this movie especially in the scenes where he is basically mentoring Eazy-E. I also must mention R. Marcus Taylor who plays Suge Knight and absolutely succeeds in the role by looking and acting as menacingly as he possibly can.
By the time this movie was over I was pretty much satisfied with how they told the story. It gets into a lot of the racial discrimination which is very relevant today. The only structural problem I have with the movie is that it doesn’t exactly build up to anything in the end. Obviously with the way the story goes with what happen with Eazy-E there really was nothing to build up to so I can’t exactly fault the filmmakers for that. There are individual segments within this movie that come off great and if they had been able to maintain the momentum within those segments throughout the entire movie I totally would have rated this movie higher. I can’t blame the filmmakers too much for that though obviously because this movie being a biopic means it has to follow what actually happen so it is hard to keep momentum going in those circumstances. Overall the movie is a raw and somewhat honest portrayal of an amazing hip hop group that deserves a ton of credit.
Dave’s Rating- ★★★★(4) out of ★★★★★(5)6, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON MOVIE REVIEW