Straight Outta Compton is an intriguing film that comes on the back of much critical acclaim and whilst it is an entertaining biopic charting rap group NWA, it is hardly a game changing movie.
The film, as you’d expect from listening to the music of NWA, takes a huge focus on racial issues, particularly at the start when the audience is thrown straight into 1980’s Compton. Here we see the struggles of a young Ice Cube (Oshea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Mitchell) and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) being harassed by the police and arrested for doing nothing, whilst also being threatened by local gangs for a similarly lack of reasons.
The three of them turn to music as a way to explain their situations and despite protestations of the police and FBI soon find themselves with a record label – with help of manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti in what is now a typical role for him). However fame and fortune take their toll as the band turn against one another in a tense and dramatic film.
I guess the biggest reason why people are praising this film is for its realistic and honest feeling portrayal of the characters of the time. The key characters do not feel glorified (although they are probably are) as we see them all commit crimes and regularly fight. We are however given a reason to genuinely ‘F**k tha police’ through a series of brutal arrest scenes that help showcase the problem of police harassment and racial stereotyping (problems that still exist today).
The first hour and a half of the film is amazing to watch and totally absorbing cinema as great performances really bring depth to the characters and a range of interesting scenes keep the audience on their toes. The last hour of the film however changes as the characters achieve success and become arrogant, turning their anger away from the big issues and towards each other.
The film then becomes tiring, drawn out and predictable which is a real shame as up to that point it feels as if its really going somewhere. The introduction of other rapper-characters such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac also feel pointless as the film starts to feel more and more like an advert for Ice Cube and Dre’s talent – with references to Beatz headphones and Ice Cube’s early films coming across as out of place and a little pretentious.
The film also skips over many of the darker moments in their personal lives, particularly that of Dr. Dre with his infamous attack on Dee Barnes skipped entirely. It just feels like its attempts to be an honest account could only stretch so far and the exclusion of such a scene tarnishes the integrity of the rest of the movie, which is a real shame.
Straight Outta Compton is a film which isn’t undeserving of the acclaim its receiving but for me could have made a bigger statement.
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