Straight Outta Compton

D: F. Gary Gray
Universal/Legendary/New Line (Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Scott Bernstein & Dr. Dre)
US 2015
147 mins


W: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus
DP: Matthew Libatique
Ed: Billy Fox
Mus: Joseph Trapanese

Jason Mitchell (Eric 'Eazy-E' Wright), O'Shea Jackson, Jr. (O'Shea 'Ice Cube' Jackson), Corey Hawkins (Andre 'Dr. Dre' Young), Neil Brown (Antoine 'DJ Yella' Carraby), Paul Giamatti (Jerry Heller)

I have to start this review by stating that I am not a fan of hip-hop. It's just not a genre of music which I follow, so watching a 147 minute film about the rise of NWA, one of the genre's breakthrough acts, is about appealing to me as watching a 147 minute film about the rise of NWA, one of the genre's breakthrough acts.
Straight Outta Compton follows the usual stencil for cinema biopics, from humble beginnings as youths growing up in one of Los Angeles' toughest neighbourhood, Eric 'Eazy E' Wright, Andre 'Dr. Dre' Young, Antoine 'DJ Yella' Carraby, Lorenzo 'MC Ren' Patterson and O'Shea 'Ice Cube' Jackson perform their act on stage and are approached by music manager Jerry Heller, who wants to represent them.
Controversy also follows the group, especially with their song "Fuck Tha Police", which is deemed by law enforcement authorities to provoke and encourage violence, but the band cannot be silenced with their rapping being their own stanza on free speech.
With their first album (Straight Outta Compton) selling well and their follow ups about to do likewise, there's a rift in the camp and Ice Cube parts ways.
It soon develops that Heller is embezzling from the group, which leads to his subsequent sacking and a short-lived reunion before the premature death of one of the founding members.
The film does a good job of squeezing in a decade worth of story into the running time, but there's also a lot which could have been trimmed, especially the attempted juxtaposition of the Rodney King case, which doesn't work when mirrored with Ice Cube moaning about "bitches and money" while dissing his former crew.
With Dr. Dre and Ice Cube serving as producers on this film, it doesn't feel like an impartial and truthful representation of the way things went down, and much has been tinkered with for dramatic effect. Perhaps it would have been a different film had original director John Singleton, who made his breakthrough with 1991's Boyz N The Hood, kept hold of the reins.
The direction isn't the issue here though, neither is the acting (which is especially good from O'Shea Jackson - imitating his own father to perfection), for me, the biggest issue is that it's just too damn long and seems to glorify gang culture.
The film will have its fans, especially from those who enjoyed the music, but for others, many will just wonder what the big deal is.

Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton