Synopsis – The group NWA emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California, in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.
My Take – The only reason I decided to watch this movie was due to its huge financial success in the U.S. Well of course I know N.W.A – the notorious bunch of rappers from the 80s, & who doesn’t know Ice Cube & Dr. Dre. I wouldn’t classify myself as a die hard hip-hop fan but I can appreciate the music and lyrics, all of which is made easier with some brilliantly executed musical scenes showing the group either recording their music or performing it to thousands in sold-out arenas, I must say this biopic is actually very good!! To start this film is not just about N.W.A. you see their love for Rap and Hip Hop, and a true inspirational story filled with gangsters, drugs, money, greed, manipulation and police brutality. Ever since I can remember on Universal‘s 2002 semi-biopic 8 Mile, regarding how Eminem came to be (albeit name changed and loosely based on his life), I expected this film was going to follow in that same fray. The moment the film began and completed it from start to finish, I was left bewildered and further curious on how much N.W.A. went through in the early 1990s, much like how Eminem wanted recognition in his skill despite his appearance and background. I may have been too young to understand what was going on in that era, but it piqued my interest even further since such harsh circumstances still reverberate in today’s culture. Even though the movie was nearly 145 minutes long, it didn’t really lag at any point, it was very fast and went straight to major events in each characters lives. Some Characters (Dre/E/Cube) had more events of interest and so they got more time but it makes sense because honestly if you know N.W.A then you know it was those 3 who were the most interesting but having said that, to be unbiased I have to say that Ren (who had some notable scenes and story) got lost as well as Yella and even though DOC wasn’t in N.W.A he was in the movie and was a bigger deal to the group then the 2-3 scenes we saw him in. Also those 3 had very little speaking lines and felt more like a glorified extra’s.That’s fine though because like I said, Cube/Dre/E were the 3 people that were the most interesting and so because of that I only took a star off for that but still an overwhelmingly awesome film. The scenes of N.W.A being roughed up by police are a terrible threat to the powerful elements in our society, who stay in power only by keeping white people scared of black men. They can’t tolerate the idea of black male victims, so they instantly start a media backlash portraying the victims as criminals. This film is the biopic about the band labelled ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Group’, namely N.W.A.
They only lasted as a functioning outfit for a very short time but their impact has been lasting and profound. In many ways, their aggressive socially aware music and image did for hip hop what the earlier punk band the Sex Pistols did for rock music. In that they created a brand of direct uncompromising music that acted as a call to arms for many, while leading the band themselves into direct trouble with the authorities of their country. What followed of course was the rise of the popularity of rap music to the point that at one stage it was the most popular form of music on the planet. The story follows five friends – Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr, Ice Cube‘s real-life son), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), combined their musical talents and formed N.W.A in 1986, they revolutionized the genre of hip-hop forever. With the help of their manager, Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), N.W.A were signed by Priority Records and released their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, in 1988. The album caused controversy upon release and gave N.W.A the reputation of being the most dangerous group in the world. Their lyrics were said to be disrespectful of women while glorifying the criminal lifestyle and even speaking out about their deep hatred towards the police. This biopic depicts the trouble N.W.A had with the police as well as the big personalities that would cause a power struggle within the group. This film is about how their friendship tears them apart & how they all come back together when one of them reaches his death bed. The film also looks at the gangsta rap (aka reality rap) scene more generally, with appearances from recording artists like Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur, while Suge Knight and his label Death Row Records comes off very badly and seems to represent some genuinely negative elements of the rap genre. As the film progresses the melodrama increases as the band splinters off and public fights ensue between ex-members. But some of the most impressive moments are the scenes involving the music itself. There is particularly powerful concert footage of a Detroit show which was ultimately stopped by the police. Whether you are a fan of rap of not, it’s hard to not appreciate the sheer excitement of this type of music when it is delivered so aggressively and committed. By the end, it takes a depressing turn with the death of Eazy-E due to AIDS and the film doesn’t sugar coat this, much to its credit. Overall, this is a pretty dynamic and exciting music biopic and is delivered with some gusto, although I often felt that if anything it downplayed the incendiary nature of N.W.A a little. But, whatever the case, this remains an excellent film which tells a story that fully justifies its big screen treatment. This is one of the best films of the year, that is all. The film is just absolutely incredible. It was a biopic that told the story of how N.W.A came to be and what happened while they were active and after. Now i don’t know the history of N.W.A to the point where i know what is accurate and what is not, but from looking stuff up if you are looking for the most accurate retelling, this probably isn’t it as it is a biopic not a documentary. But with Ice Cube and Dr Dre as producers on the film i guess you could say some things were more accurate than not.
The fact that this film managed to entertain me from start to finish even though i am not exactly an N.W.A fan speaks for how spectacular this movie was. It was intense at times, sad at times and in the end was just a really fascinating story that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It had incredible performances and covered many different events that all came together to tell a what is a really great story. Really, this film just had it all. I love a good biopic, and this is one of the best of them all, amazing. There is some wonderful cinematography from Matthew Libatique and the editing by Billy Fox that brings such an energy to proceedings that you, at times, might actually think you are watching the performance from the same arena. Around the third act the film slows down in pace as it shows us the fall of N.W.A and the feud with Ice Cube. Where many people saw this as a flaw, i was as entertained with this portion of the film as i was with the rest of it. We start to see how the members of the group are dealing with their own personal issues, so as a result we get a good look behind the scenes of the glamour and music as well as the personal lives of people we thought we knew. For example, we get to see Ice Cube writing the script for Friday (his 1995 film co starring Chris Tucker) which shows how he is moving on from N.W.A . A character in the film talks about how N.W.A is glamorizing drugs and violence, as producers Ice Cube and Dr. Dre do brilliantly at showing us how this wasn’t the case. You can really see in the writing that they are passionate about this story. Among the performances, its Jason Mitchell who is getting the most praise for his portrayal of the deceased Eazy-E, which is the hardest of the group to play in my opinion. I definitely wouldn’t complain if Mitchell‘s performance was to get that sort of recognition. Corey Hawkins is impressive as Dr. Dre while O’Shea Jackson Jr. proves that he bares more than just a resemblance to his father, Ice Cube, by stepping into his shoes with brilliant confidence and presence. The only real veteran in this film is Paul Giamatti, who does his usual solid performance, this time as the sleazy, manipulative manager Jerry Heller. On the whole, ‘Straight Outta Compton‘, is quite a powerful film and maybe one of the most captivating biopic films I’ve seen in a long time (2009’s Notorious was the last rap film I liked). Complete with superb performances, enthralling storytelling, and a killer soundtrack, this movie is certainly a must-see! Even if you’re not a fan of hip-hop or rap in general, I still think you need to this as their effect on pop culture in general is still prevalent today. Must Watch!!
Directed – F. Gary Gray
Rated – R
Run Time – 147 minutes