STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
Genre: Musical Biopic
Running Time: 147 mins.
Premise: In the late '80s, the hugely influential rap group N.W.A., whose members include such icons as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, escaped the streets of Compton and rose to national prominence with topical, loaded lyrics that chronicled their way of life. As fame and fortune take their toll, each member goes their own way to varying degrees of acclaim and success.
Behind-the-Scenes: Ice Cube's own son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., plays his father, and the resemblance is striking. Director F. Gary Gray previously directed Friday, which was written by and starred Ice Cube, and spawned the catchphrase, "Bye, Felicia." That catchphrase pops up again here in a real crowd-pleasing moment.
The Good: The cast is pitch perfect, and all the actors faithfully mimic their real life personas. Blink and you'll be hard pressed to say that Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell aren't actually Cube, Dre, and E. The music is fantastic. The political influence the group had and the racial turmoil that surrounded them is endlessly fascinating, and Gray does an excellent job of recreating that particular time and place. The film plays to one's nostalgia for that era, yet many of the racial issues are just as relevant today. It's a handsomely mounted production, and has energy to spare.
The Bad: The movie is so jam packed with story that it can't do justice to each sequence. The second half falls into the usual musical biopic cliches and becomes somewhat rote and episodic. Feels like the screenwriters had a list of events they wanted to include and are just dutifully checking them off. I would have much preferred a tighter focus on the rise of N.W.A., and less on the lip service paid to Dre and Snoop meeting for the first time, Tupac recording in the studio, and Suge Knight as the devil incarnate. Save that stuff for a sequel.
Should You See It?: Yes. This is a strong film overall, and a must-see for fans of the era and music.
Star Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 stars.
Better Than: Notorious, Get On Up
Worse Than: 8 Mile, Ray
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