Based on the real life of the N.W.A., the ‘Straight Outta Compton’ gives us a look at Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E and their journey through Compton, California in the ’80s — and how they changed everything. So, what’d the critics think?
Jason Mitchell takes on the role of Eazy-E, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube. Additionally, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre have both star in the film as well, but many have questioned how far Straight Outta Compton will go, if it can keep everyone’s attention, or it has pigeon-holed itself from the beginning?
A conventional music-world biopic in outline, but intensely human and personal in its characterizations and attention to detail, director F. Gary Gray’s movie is a feast for hip-hop connoisseurs and novices alike as it charts the West Coast rap superstars’ meteoric rise, fractious in-fighting and discovery that the music business can be as savage as the inner-city streets. A very smart piece of counter-programming in a summer dominated by lily-white tentpole movies, Universal’s Aug. 14 opener should keep the studio clocking much dollars at the late-summer box office.
In terms of its worth as a document of historical record and a shining light on today’s social ills, it pulls the same trick as Black Dynamite, presenting a story from a by-gone era and trusting the viewer to notice how few details have changed in the last 30 years. But as strong as the film is in its first half, chronicling the rise of its star musicians (Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Easy-E) and showing the world which inspired their music, it nonetheless cannot help but devolve into a generic musical biopic template in its second half. That’s the irony. The first half presents a sadly timeless situation which gives the film a raw power while the second half becomes a little muddled in equally timeless showbiz clichés.
In a variation from showbiz-bio convention, Compton gives us not one exploiter but two: The white Heller and the black Knight both enter the tale with something real to offer, and maybe even with decent intentions. But both are poisonous — violently so, in Knight’s case — and must be escaped by the artists even at the cost of great sums of money. No worries: There was plenty to be made after Compton‘s story ended.
The best scenes of the film inventively employ cinema’s ability to manipulate time with humor and music: after Ice Cube leaves the group and delivers his diss track “No Vaseline” (which raps about the remaining N.W.A. members being anally screwed by their manager), the sequences plays out creatively with Cube recording the angry track in the studio crosscutting with the group listening to the track at home utterly deflated. The “oh shit!” feeling is palpably enjoyable and perhaps best embodies the entertaining spirit of the movie when its at its best.
— Emily Longeretta