“Straight Outta Compton” tells the story of the Los Angeles gangsta-rap group N.W.A. It’s a bit ‘Hollywood-ized,’ writes reviewer Mike Ramos, but also historically accurate. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
“Straight Outta Compton,” F. Gary Gray’s biopic about the rise of Los Angeles gangsta-rap innovators N.W.A., attempts to fit a complex, 10-year history involving multiple members, label heads, their conflicting motives and points of view, plus an overarching American cultural zeitgeist, into a two-and-a-half hour feature film.
By most measures it succeeds, and though it is a somewhat “Hollywood-ized” telling of the events that made five guys from Compton into national icons, it doesn’t sacrifice accuracy to make it fun to watch.
Gray, who got his start directing music videos for Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, understandably lets those two members color the overall perspective a bit more heavily than others (the two are credited as producers, along with Eazy-E’s widow, Tomica Gray-Wright). But N.W.A.’s well-known internal problems are mostly addressed objectively, and actor Jason Mitchell’s jheri-curled portrayal of Eazy-E is the highlight of the film.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Straight Outta Compton,’ with O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti. Directed by F. Gary Gray, from a screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff. 150 minutes. Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence and drug use. Several theaters.
Through Eazy-E’s narrow escape from a drug bust in the introduction, transformation from dopeman to rapper, “Boyz N The Hood” recording session, his relationship with manager Jerry Heller (played by a conniving, toupeed Paul Giamatti) and untimely death from HIV, Mitchell delivers a charismatic performance that does his character’s memory justice.
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One of the biggest themes in N.W.A.’s music was police brutality, and the film mirrors that with multiple sequences of harassment, continually referring to the progress of the 1992 trial of four Los Angeles police officers for the beating of Rodney King.
When the not-guilty verdict comes down, the montage of the riots is chillingly similar to present-day scenes from Ferguson, Mo.
N.W.A. emerged as an unheard voice of marginalized minorities hoping to be heard and make a difference. It’s a bit depressing to watch the characters’ struggles, knowing that there is still no end in sight.