Straight Outta Compton: Contracts, Cussing and Controversy

*Warning: this film is very explicit, viewer discretion is advised*

Straight outta Compton (2015) is directed by F.Gary Gray and stars O’Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, R.Marcos Taylor and Paul Giamatti. The film is based on the true life story of the legendary and controversial hip-hop group NWA and the rise and fall of its members.

This movie was fantastic. When it came out I was expecting it to be at best a superficial retelling akin to Notorious (2009) and at worst a Razzie magnet like Glitter (2001). This is probably the best biopic I’ve seen about a music artist/musical group since Ray (2004) with none of the third act pacing issues.

Straight outta Compton is a powerhouse of drama and energy that hooks you before the first hip hop beat drops and has you by the neck until the final curtain. The 147 minutes eased by, and I was left lapping for more. I wish I had seen this film when the hype was still about and I understand the grievances over why it didn’t receive more Academy Award nominations.

F Gary Gray created one of the best movies of 2015 and one of the most controversial, as he doesn’t shy away from the shock and scandals that surrounded this controversial rap group.

The performances are rock solid. Corey Hawkins shines as he brings a young coming of age Dr Dre to life, his pain over the death of a vital character is harrowing. And his growth from an immature and lazy young DJ into the successful and driven music producer respected today is executed beautifully.

O Shea Jackson Jr was excellent as Ice Cube, but I suppose that wouldn’t be too difficult since he is his son! I found his performance enrapturing and energetic, kudos for the representation of a young Ice Cube.

R Marcos Taylor was intimidating, and unpredictable as Suge Knight and the interest I once had in this man has all but vanished after this terrifying portrayal of him.

Paul Giamatti, is Paul Giamatti. If you like Paul Giamatti you’ll love him in this film and that’s all I have to say about him!

But the actual breakout performance in this film was Jason Mitchell as Easy-E. What a show stealer. He brought layers to the character that turned what could have been a one dimensional partying loose cannon into a deeply intelligent, deeply troubled young man. If Eazy-E is remembered and missed in the Hip Hop community, then Mitchell certainly did his role justice, his final scenes as E are particularly heartbreaking.

I really like how the film went from what seemed to be a simple and generic tale of talented young men trying to earn success against all odds, to one about troubled young black men using their voices to air their frustrations about the country. And then finally to how people change due to circumstances around them. It was a fascinating look at the effects of poverty, racism, fame, and jealousy on young and insecure young people and is an amazing case study in character development.

F Gary Gray created one of the best movies of 2015 and one of the most controversial, as he doesn’t shy away from the shock and scandals that surrounded this controversial rap group.

The film did the decade long transition really well, showing subtle changes such as clothing and technology coming into and out of fashion from the mid 80s to mid 90s. I love how the movie threw subtle winks at the hip hop fans in the audience as time progressed, referencing landmark moments in pop culture such as the movie “Friday” without having to be explicit about it.

This movie is explicit and not for the faint of hearted. Perhaps for good reason, to demonstrate the dangerous lifestyle in the rougher parts of the US and the indulgence of the groupie scene and especially the negative consequences. At times, it may come across as self indulgent and distracts from the plot a little, but usually leads to constructive character development.

However, I do emphasise that this film is not for the faint of heart.

But what Straight Outta Compton is, is an *important* film about the rise of gangsta rap, it’s causes and consequences in popular culture and is a case study on exploited talent.

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