Straight Outta Compton
Cert: 15 / 147 mins / Dir. F. Gary Gray / Trailer
For the assembled faithful in Screen 5 on Friday, F. Gary Gray's regaling of the turbulent history of L.A. rap-group N.W.A. is a journey which begins before the BBFC card even makes an appearance, in the form of the trailer for the imminent (not to mention inexplicable) Ride Along 2. Because no matter what highs and lows will be explored among the 147 minutes of Straight Outta Compton, the audience can rest easy knowing the real tragic ending involves one of modern hip-hop's godfathers standing in faux-umbrage next to a shrieking Kevin Hart…
Covering the period of 1986 to 1996 Gray certainly delivers, and superficially, his film looks and sounds utterly magnificent. Okay, the first act is a little like a series of GTA cut-scenes, and it becomes apparent at this early stage that the story is told by deftly jumping between pivotal points in the development of N.W.A. and its ancillary projects. Feeling like a sort of visual Greatest Hits package, those unfamiliar with the broad history of the group should get plenty out of the film, and casual fans of the genre will be able to feel their way through the familiarity. The longtime, hardcore fan-base however, may find the telling a little contrived since so many of the incidents rely on the point-of-view of the narrator, and much of what happens here is already quasi-legendary.
The central cast are marvellous, with O'Shea Jackson Jr being a particular standout as Ice Cube. Jason Mitchell's performance as Eazy-E is similarly great when it's allowed time to breathe properly (see above). And helming the supporting cast is Paul Giamatti in his lengthy role as Jerry Heller, in a firm step towards his goal of securing the Guinness World Record for 'the most cinematic appearances as a transparently manipulative music manager within a year'.
As competently as the film replays the buildup of the Gangsta-scene, it's not really until the timeline reaches the L.A. riots of 1992 that it really feels like it has something more to say. Although by that point, it's so locked into its just-the-facts-ma'am methodology of storytelling that the weight of those events almost seems skipped over. At two and a half hours, it's by no means a short film, but I'd have happily had another sixty minutes or so if it meant getting a more personal perspective. As it stands, the film's not really doing anything new in itself, but what it does achieve is done so well that it doesn't really matter.
Straight Outta Compton is an engaging, if slightly perfunctory music biopic. Although with a setting and soundtrack as awesome as this, most of its flaws*1 are entirely forgivable…
If the music's your thing, yes.
But that's going to be a deal-breaker.
Providing the extras are up-to-scratch, this will be a buy-er.
The performances and performers themselves are magnificent, yes.
It probably does, although I don't think it achieves everything I wanted it to.
Which isn't what director F. Gary Gray had in mind, admittedly.
Not that I heard, but the film does open with a pseudo boot-shot.
Dr. Dre is portrayed by Corey Hawkins who made an appearance in Iron Man 3, a film which starred Jon 'Pre Vizsla' Favreau.
*1 Little things like the scene where Eazy-E is diagnosed with AIDS, and is told that his pregnant girlfriend will also have to be tested. Do we learn how he (most likely) contracted HIV? No, we don't. Do we find out if his partner and unborn child were carrying it? No, we don't. Y'know, it's only like his film, after all.
Additionally, there are probably more than a few paragraphs to be written on the depiction and treatment of the (very few) women in the film, but the factual basis of the story means that you can't really blame the film itself, even though you don't have to be happy with it either.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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