Weekly Review: Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Straight Outta Compton follows the rise of N.W.A. With ups and downs, shady business, parties and disses, the film follows Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella on a rise to fame that both fans and non-fans can appreciate.

I’ll be honest. Before watching Straight Outta Compton, I really had no knowledge about N.W.A. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan, so this review will attempt to be objective.

From a fan’s perspective, Straight Outta Compton is a trip down memory lane. The overall outcome isn’t a surprise, but it’s nice to see it play out on screen. The occasional cameos that come up are pleasant surprises, and it’s almost unnoticed how long the film’s duration is.

From the perspective of a non-fan, the film is still a good time. The running time seems a bit long, and some of the scenes seem a bit unnecessary. The cameos are pleasant surprises, but don’t really affect the overall plot. There are gratuitous scenes of sex and nudity, and several areas seem to be straight out of a music video, but it’s not entirely out of place. It just wasn’t to my tastes.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 2.15.24 PM

The cinematography in the film is nothing too spectacular, but it works well for the situations that the film depicts. The settings vary from more gritty settings and cinematography to the more standard settings and cinematography seen in film.  As I mentioned, there are other aspects of the film that are done in a way that is reminiscent of music videos, which is fitting considering the subject matter.
In terms of acting, Jason Mitchell, who portrays Eazy-E,  has the standout role. He perfectly conveys a broad range of emotions in a variety of situations. Corey Hawkins, who portrays Dr. Dre, does a solid performance, but it doesn’t compare to Mitchell’s. As for O’Shea Jackson, Jr., who portrays the younger version of his own father Ice Cube, I was far more distracted by just how much he looks like his father to really critique his performance. Either way, the chemistry between the actors who portray the main characters is pretty great. I felt it.

Paul Giamatti also co-stars in the film as Jerry Heller, N.W.A’s manager. Giamatti shares some great emotional scenes with Mitchell, but as usual, Giamatti’s scenes of anger seem overzealous.

Straight Outta Compton is controversial in many ways, both for what it depicts and also what it chooses not to. At the time depicted in the film, N.W.A’s music caused quite a stir. Their music spoke about the environment they lived in, and this environment didn’t have the best relationship with the police. This causes just as much controversy today because the political climate is not much different. Seeing moments on screen from 1992, that look identical to moments in 2015, is bound to get people talking, as it should.

At the same time, the film is also controversial because of what it chooses to leave out. Straight Outta Compton is definitely a revisionist type film. It’s important to know that it was being produced by people who were being portrayed, namely Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E’s widow. You have to keep that in mind before easily swallowing what you’re being shown. It’s a realistic story, but certain elements are definitely left out.

Another bit of the film that has caused controversy is its portrayal of Jerry Heller, Giamatti’s character. The actual person Jerry Heller has understandably taken offense to his portrayal in the film. In addition to pursuing ramifications for defamation, Heller also claims that parts of the film were taken from his autobiography without permission.

Straight Outta Compton was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay. I personally felt that Jason Mitchell could have been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance, but that’s a discussion for another day. The film has been well received by critics, and it definitely is a good film. It’s just important to be able to separate fact from fiction.

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