Earlier this week, many took to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of an unarmed African-American, 18 year old Michael Brown, who was killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Today, August 14, the movie “Straight Outta Compton” opens. It tells the story of the rise of the revolutionary rap group, “N.W.A.” One theme the group often sang about was how the white police officers in the 1980s would unfairly harass young African-American teens. If you look at the news lately, it appears not much has changed.
In the mid to late 1980s, this new rap group gave birth to the genre known as Gangsta Rap, or as the members of the group saw it, Reality Rap. The members of the group included Ice Cube, Dr. Dr, Easy E, MC Ren and DJ Yella. This biopic chronicles the rise of the icons and how the members of the group eventually went their separate ways.
The movie is two-and-a-half hours long. It’s not unusual for a bio movie to be longer than average. You really can’t tell a true-life story in hundred minutes. However, the fault with “Straight Outta Compton” is that you feel that time. It just keeps going. The movie is entertaining, but it’s not one of those movies where the time flies by. It gets to a point where you want it to end.
The cast of “Straight Outta Compton” is very strong. O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays Ice Cube. The big deal about that is he is Ice Cube’s real life son. When Jackson became an actor, he probably never imagined he would be playing his dad, but he nails the role. Dr. Dre certainly has to be pleased with the job Corey Hawkins does playing him. Paul Giamatti is Jerry Heller, who was the group’s manager and got their music out to the world. Giamatti is great in whatever role he plays. The one who steals the show; however, is Jason Mitchell playing Easy-E. If you were a fan of Easy’s, you will agree that Mitchell completely embodies him as he gives an Oscar worthy performance that will be talked about for a really long time.
The producers of “Straight Outta Compton” made a smart movie by hiring veteran director F. Gary Gray to be at the helm. Some of his better-known movies are “Law Abiding Citizen” with Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler and “The Italian Job” with Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron. Despite the long script, he does a good job at balancing the multiple stories he needs to tell. He does things with the camera that he has not done before. These show he is still growing as a storyteller. He does get into an after school special mode at times. An example of this happens early in the movie when Dr Dre’s mother is riding him about his choice of trying to make it as a DJ. She tells him, “I won’t let you throw your life away.” This is accompanied by really dramatic music.
Most of us cannot imagine what it was like to grow up in a place like Compton, California in the 1980s. You had cops, who obviously did not like you based only on what you looked like and who needlessly harassed you because they could. N.W.A. came along and shined a very bright light on that. “Straight Outta Compton” may very well re-shine that light not only out West, but also all across our country. It is rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence and drug use.