Straight Outta Compton, directed by F. Gary Gray is a true to life film that portrays the realistic feeling journey of the rise of the now famous NWA. Unfortunately some tonal issues and a sporadic nature with the overall plotting of the story leaves some very much exposed story elements.
I assume by this point, most people are aware of the story for ‘Straight Outta Compton’. With that being said, I want to be my helpful self, so I’ll give some context for the film. Straight Outta Compton follows the rise and subsequent fall of the group NWA; Comprising of Dr Dre, played by Corey Hawkins, Ice Cube, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr (the real life son of Ice Cube), Easy-E, played by Jason Mitchell, DJ Yella, played by Neil Brown Jr, and finally MC Ren, played by Aldis Hodge. This is a film that not only chronicles the most known of the famous group, as it also gives some insight into the background members of what is perhaps one of the most well-known rap groups of the 1980’s/90’s.
What is certainly the most compelling part of Straight Outta Compton are its performances. Each actor in the film perfectly encapsulates their real life counterparts; from mannerisms, facial tics, to the onstage presence and even the familiarity of their everyday speaking voices. This is a film filled with actors who expertly bring these famous rappers to the big screen. Casting was certainly key in this film, and they absolutely nailed it. There wasn’t one point where it didn’t feel like I was watching NWA become what they were. A great level of respect and appreciation has to be given to the work that went into bringing these now iconic people to life in the film.
Unfortunately though, it’s at this point that I need to get into my gripes with the film, because unexpectedly for me, there were a few. What was perhaps the most jarring aspect for the film was how it structurally was all over the place. This is a film that spans over 7 years and in that time a lot of things of course happen. This causes the problem of large jumps in time, which in turn means a lot of things are glossed over or forgotten about quickly. With the film jumping around so much it causes the momentum of the film to be continuously stopping and restarting itself. Just as you’re getting into the flow of everything, the film will jump weeks/months/years and you have to once again acclimate yourself with the characters and their surroundings. There are portions of the film where characters are making huge leaps in their development and you are given very little to no context for were in their life they are. It gets confusing quickly.
This then leads onto the other problem with the structure of the film. With it moving through the story of the rise and fall of these people, things get set up and forgotten about quickly, or even worse are not given the appropriate level of pay off at all. There are moments where the troubles of life really kick in for some of the characters but it goes nowhere and is more or less forgotten about. One scene that sticks out in particular is where a character is laid up in the hospital after being attacked and thrown out of a car. His career may be over and whoever it was that did it need to face some form of justice. What becomes of this situation? Well nothing, the film moves onto the next important beat in the film and no wrap up or even explanation is given, the film just carries on. This is just one example of a situation that happened often. I understand that there is a large time frame to cover and they have to fit the most important parts into a 2 hour and 30 minute run time, but do to it so often and so blatantly was really frustrating after a while.
What is also a problem and is something that many people seem to have issue with when Straight Outta Compton is concerned is how it misses out integral parts of their timeline. Something in particular that I found weird that they left out was the very public feud between Easy-E and Dr Dre. The film doesn’t touch upon it at all. It seems the reason was because the wanted to convey a more positive feeling for each of the characters in the film. Despite one particular moment at the end of the film which is sad, the passing of Easy E (spoilers I guess, even though he died 15 years ago) the film seems set on wrapping everything up in a happy, positive light. I think this perhaps ties into a larger overall problem with that film, that being that it felt like it was playing it a little safe thorough out its run, never really diving deep enough into the darker side of those times.
I’ve unfortunately had a lot of negative things to say about Straight Outta Compton and I do feel that they are fair criticisms of the film, but something that is impossible to be negative about is the music in this film. Unsurprisingly it’s brilliant. The film thankfully takes the time to explore the origins of some of their most famous songs and it’s a genuine treat anytime it does. The way in which they integrate them into the journey of the film is enjoyable and at times pretty clever. Instead of just cutting to random stage performances with the actors, director F. Gary Gray made sure to be inventive and different with the time spent with the music and it is certainly some of the most goose bump inducing moments within the film, a nostalgia ridden experience for sure.
There are a lot of issues in Straight Outta Compton, but there is also a lot to love. This is a film that misses some important beats but still delivers something stimulating to watch. In no way is the film a double edged sword, sure part of it hurts, but the other part is shiny and nice to look at.
I’m going to recommend Straight Outta Compton. Yes the film has issues, but at its core is still something worth seeing.
Did you enjoy time with Straight Outta Compton? Let me know in the comments down below. Want to keep up with my other reviews? Follow me on Twitter,@GavinsTurtle. Last but not least, enjoy your weekend.