Straight Outta Compton

Drama,Biography

When it sticks to rhymes and rage, this biopic has power, says Joshua Rothkopf Discuss this article

straightoutta
© ITP Images

The flagrantly unbowed N.W.A., pioneers of “reality rap” (we now call it gangsta), very much deserve their own movie – that’s not a premise to argue with. But is F. Gary Gray’s often sentimental, occasionally dull Straight Outta Compton the best possible version of it? Only partly. It starts strong. There’s enjoyable humour (and beautiful acting) as brow-furrowed, rhyme-scribbling teen
Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Cube’s real son), shrewd gangster Eric “Eazy-E” Wright (Jason Mitchell) and frustrated DJ Andre (Corey Hawkins) fuse together their sensibilities in the studio, hatch Ruthless Records and miracle a brilliant single into being, 1987’s Boyz-n-the-Hood.

But given its inspiration, the film could have used more than its whiff of radical revolution, which we get in scenes where the band is hassled by cops for simply standing on the corner. Invading a mainstream that would soon be dominated by Vanilla Ice, N.W.A. came across like terrorists, and Straight Outta Compton largely forgets to include that larger cultural revulsion, apart from a couple of snobby Peter Jennings clips. Meanwhile, the group’s manager (Paul Giamatti) goes from friend to enemy, the city of Los Angeles explodes during the 1992 Rodney King riots, and we’re meant to be dramatically satisfied by… contract disputes? There’s way too much inside-baseball money talk here, when a simpler plot – one about a band whose apocalyptic vision comes to pass – would have been plenty. There’s smarts and swagger for sure. But where’s the fire?

The bottom line
A hip-hop biopic that skips the harsh reality of “reality rap”.

By Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out Bahrain,

Straight Outta Compton

  • Duration: 147
  • Released: Thu, 01 Oct
  • Classification: TBA
  • Language: English
  • Director: F. Gary Gray
  • Stars: O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell

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