Straight Outta Compton – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

straight outta comptonStraight Outta Compton – 4/5 – Biopics; films infused with many different elements of the art of filmmaking.  When it comes to dealing with true story elements; you always get a good mix of storytelling within the journey of the individual(s).  No matter if it is a historical figure, musician or sports athlete, biopics usually beat to a similar drum.  Every now and then, there are times when a film takes the ideals of a Biopic and stands out on its own.   Straight Outta Compton takes a story of a group of individual who changed the face of the music industry in the late 1980s.  A film that sheds the light on a story untold, Straight Outta Compton is a film that will delight, move and shed a light on truths of society that are still relevant today.  Even with the second half misgivings, this is one of the best Biopics I’ve seen in quite some time.

Premise: The true story of N.W.A.; this film follows their story, rise and ultimate downfall in the late 80s/ early 90s.

For the full list of actors/actresses, you can refer to the IMDB page.   For the main players in this film, you have as followed:

O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube

Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre

Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E

Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller (manager)

The first three are the main crux of what made up the group of N.W.A.  As these very well known figures in the Rap industry, the actors do a masterful job in embodying real-life individuals.  From the look, actions and interactions with everyone on screen, you believe them as game-changing young rappers trying to voice their struggles.  The complexion of their creative mindset helps form the group, while modeling what their art reflects on multiple levels.  From their ideas of what is art, to the everyday dealings with harassment from the cops, you feel the struggle layered within their personal and literal selves.  The complexion helps break a sense of raw vigor, one where you see meaningful stature in their brotherhood and their decisions later on in the film.  The actor that’s the heart and soul of this movie (as well as the group) is Eazy-E, played by Jason Mitchell.  You feel his passion, anger, resentment and disgust of his life throughout the story.  From his drug dealing days to him become the rap artist he didn’t expect to be, this individual reflects the ideals of struggle on both a physical and mental scale.  Struggling with decisions throughout the film, you see a deep humanistic quality in his performance.  Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller is going to be considered a great underrated role.  On the surface, it seems he is portraying the cliché manager (you find in most music biopics); but he spins it in a way that you feel the dagger of shame.  You know he is ripping off his clients, but he shows compassion for them throughout the story.  That struggle to be both a friend but a crook gives him realistic flaws, showing that as much as he wants the money, he still cares about his clients (sometimes).  The rest of the cast do a great job in fleshing out the story, but boil down to being typical plot devices for pivotal moments for the main characters.

The direction can be broken into two halves.  I say this because when watching the film, you feel as if there two parts of one story.  You have them as followed:

First Half: We get introduced to the big three, how they meet up and eventually form the group N.W.A.  From here, we see the progression of the thematic origins, journey, common struggle (with social themes) and the ultimate moment for the groups’ demise.

Second Half: Three storylines of each of the Individuals (after the breakup), biopic drama stylized to highlight pivotal moments for the three; leading to a ‘reflection’ arch and tragic climax.

This is the overall arching progression of the film.  In the first half, you get see strong ‘characterization’ of what made each individual important to the group, N.W.A.  You see how Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E came together to form the group.  Through each of them, you see individuals with an idea of reflecting their reality.  Each of them has a strong passion to their own craft, which gives you an on look to their personal struggles of family, friendship and the police harassment in the neighborhood of Compton.  The strength of the first half comes from the performances of each individual.  You will feel that same passion and drive that these individuals have.  The heart of their story is them to succeed in their art.  That common struggle to succeed makes this story as relevant before as it is now.  Along with their individual stories, what coats the strong realistic tone is the theme of double standards in society, especially when it comes to police brutality.  The harassment and racial tension of the times breeds like wildfire, moving these individuals to ‘speak up’ and mix it within their art.   As the group gets together, and starts to reach the masses, that overall theme of double standards begins to reach into high realms of our society and government.  When their voices get stronger, so does racial and social tension.  Then, there is a moment of truth for the group when they reach a certain part of the tour.  After this certain incident, the film transitions into the second half.  The characterization that had been built up strongly comes to a standstill.  The momentum halts slightly, but the themes and individual performances are still the ongoing focus.  The second half deals with the fallout and highlights aspect of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E’s early exploits after the group.  From here, the story becomes just another standard biopic; where you see the ‘important’ moments that happen in all three of their lives.  The story basically glosses over moments instead of providing endearment.  This doesn’t hurt the overall experience of the journey, but it brings it down a notch.  Once we get through the montage like plotlines, everything converges on a ‘reflection’ style climax.  This brings the film back to its characterized first half strength, as each of the main characters reflect on their life and the things that they wish they didn’t do.  Once the film rides into its epilogue, you feel the strength of this true tale, knowing the journey was worth experiencing it in the end.

The visuals of the film are built upon the aesthetic nature of the characters own lives.  With a reflection of the neighborhood, the studios and ultimately their ‘rise’ up the ladder, you get to live their story through visual conception.  There isn’t anything that stands out or distracts, it all helps ground the film to their journey and where their lives ultimately lead.  The score of the film is indicative of the era and musical landscape of the late 80s/early 90s.  The infusion of certain hip-hop tracks within the film boosts the overall experience, adding to the tone and themes.

Straight Outta Compton is a film that’s an endearing experience.  Even as the second half turns into a standard biopic, the film still ends strong.  If you’re a fan of the group, hip-hop or biopics in general, go see this film.  This is a great time at the theaters with a story worth experiencing.

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