Saturday, August 15, 2015

Straight Outta Compton review

I am going to take a break from my usual reporting on all things goth, industrial, metal, and synthpop to review the recently released film Straight Outta Compton, the biopic on the gangsta rap group NWA.

I am not going to pretend that I am a fan of gangsta rap music however I always have found the story of NWA to be compelling given the drama surrounding the members namely Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O'shea Jackson Jr.) and Eric "Eazy-E" Wright (Jason Mitchell). The film tells the rise and eventual fall of the popular rap group.

For the majority of the film, the story centers on Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E's life. Unfortunately MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), The D.O.C (Marlon Yates Jr.) and DJ Yello (Neil Brown Jr.) take a backseat to Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, even with 2 1/2 hours, there was so much of the story with the three major stars in the group, there just wasn't room to delve into the lives of MC Ren, The D.O.C and DJ Yello. They do get coverage but the film does not go as in depth as they do with  Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E. Also not mentioned in the film was the incident between Dr.Dre and journalist Dee Barnes, now he says he regrets in this interview. I am glad Dr. Dre has addressed this topic recently and said that he regrets his actions. The glossing over of the group's history of misogyny and sexism annoyed me just like with critics of the film however this film was telling the story of the band and these men were young and in the thrust of fame. I'm not justifying their attitudes and behavior at the time but that is just part of the history of the group and storyline of the film. If anything the women were just part of the spoils of success. I would have to agree with F. Gary Gray when he said that the reason he didn't include the band's attitudes and treatment of women was because it did not fit into the film's narrative. The real story is this group of young men who became one of the biggest and to some the most dangerous musical act in the world and to a certain extent the long lasting effects of their music.

The performances in the film were extremely well done. Each actor not only resembled their real life counterparts but I felt they captured the essence of their characters. Although director F. Gary Gray is more known for his music videos (which included members of NWA), he did a great job at telling the story of NWA and what fueled the rage in their lyrics which was racial profiling by law enforcement and poverty. NWA was telling the public what they saw on a daily basis and those offended by their lyrics simply just didn't understand the rage that drove them to write songs like "Fuck the Police". Critics of the group never went through the constant harassment from law enforcement because of the color of their skin.  NWA was like CNN but minus the rose colored glasses and with such brutal, intense honesty that is sorely lacking in news reporting nowadays. There are no happy endings or quick fixes to the numerous issues that fueled the group to write such intensely vivid, if not graphic lyrics.

I really hope this film is recognized come awards season, It is a powerful film that tells the story of a notorious rap group whose music still resonates with a lot of people considering what is going on in Ferguson, MO as well as other parts of the country because of poor relations with law enforcement, poverty, and other social injustices. I loved the performances of each other (including Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller who I think put in an outstanding performance). The visuals and sound were nothing short of mind-blowing which I think needs to be seen and heard in the theater, not at home. In my honest opinion,if you wait for it to hit Netflix or be released on blu-ray, you will miss the feel and sounds of the impact of the film, plus I think it would feel more like a made for tv movie.  For a movie that was 2 1/2 hours long, the movie was so good that the time flew by quickly. This is a definitely must see movie.

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