Growing up through the late 80’s and 90’s you couldn’t go too far without hearing the style of Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube on the radios and music video stations. N.W.A. was a prominent and influential sound in those eras and through the wisdom of their lyrics brought some new, something real to the world of rap.
F Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen) has directed a tour de force with Straight Outta Compton giving you a glimpse into the lives of these musicians and artist and what they had to go through to get where they are today. Not everything about their lives of course has made it into the film but what has paints a very powerful portrait and has a strong command of the camera. Each shot is framed beautifully and gives meaning to what is being shown on screen. It’s been awhile since I have seen a film show that much emotion through the lens.
Johnathan Herman and Andrea Berloff pen a powerful script from the story written by S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff. All pretty much first time writers for film have stepped up and told a story that erupts on screen with fire, heart and soul. Their writing is top notch and very strong and takes us on a very emotional journey. Not on through the life of the group itself but from the tough beginnings of each of N.W.A’s leaders.
O”Shea Jackson Jr(Ice Cube), Corey Hawkins(Dr. Dre), and Jason Mitchell(Eazy-E) give some of the best performances I’ve seen on screen this year. Neil Brown Jr.(DJ Yella) and Aldis Hodge(MC Ren) both turn in exceptional performances as well, especially nearing the end of Eazy-E’s life. Paul Giamatti(Jerry Heller) plays the ever so sleazy manager perfectly. These are some of the best performances of the year and hopeful they will garner them with some award nominations.
The pacing of the movie works so well and for a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, the film flies by. There wasn’t a moment of boredom throughout the picture. Right from the start it captivates you and keeps you glued to the screen soaking in the beats, the music, the sound of N.W.A. But it’s also not just about the music. The movie takes you through the rough time growing up, the dealings with the LA PD, the creation of Ruthless, Cube going solo. It’s there and makes for one heck of a ride. With tight editing and strong pacing the movie just flows.
Credit goes to Gray with getting very strong performances from his cast. For not doing too many feature films, Gray not only gave the movie grit but also brought in heart and soul to round it out. Was it rough in sections, of course, their lifestyle wasn’t all roses but Gray also always kept things grounded and I never felt he went over the top with performances for certain set pieces.
If there was one thing that I felt out of place was near the end of the film when Dr. Dre jumps in his Ferrari and speeds off which ended him getting caught by the cops in a chase. I felt the chase was tacked on and really didn’t need to be shown because there was never any follow up to it on the news or in the papers and it just seemed it was there to be there. I would have had Dre speed off then cut to a news report about it or maybe not include it whatsoever.
This is one movie not to miss this year and shows how the influence and test of time N.W.A had and has today. I highly recommend seeing this picture, even if you aren’t a rap fan or a fan of N.W.A it’s just that good. The reason I’m giving it 4.0 out of 5 and not a full 5.0 is because of the car chase scene. I’m not big on chases and I felt it was just shoehorned in, but overall I hope this picture gets nominated for some awards, it definitely deserves to.