t looks like we’ve found one of our Oscar contenders for 2016. And in all honesty, I didn’t think anyone saw this coming. The incredible Straight Outta Compton chronicles the formation, rise, downfall, and legacy of gangsta rap supergroup N.W.A., and the revolution they created amongst the masses with their form of music.
Throughout the beginning of the first half of the film, we’re introduced to Andre Young (Dr. Dre, played by Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (played by Jason Mitchell), and Ice Cube (played by O’Shea Jackson Jr, his son, whose resemblance to his father both in his line delivery and appearance is eerily uncanny). Dre makes the beats. E is the business man (who has to be taught to rap by Dre in a rather funny scene). Cube is the poet. We’re also introduced to DJ Yella (played by Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), although the film’s focus is mainly drawn towards the first three.
After their first single “Gangsta Gangsta” is charting the airwaves, Eazy-E catches the attention of talent manager Jerry Heller (played by a fantastically transformative Paul Giamatti) who fights to sign these guys to his management roster. Success ensues, in addition to harsh criticism from the press in regards to the group’s outspoken and intense lyrics. If you've never heard of N.W.A., they wrote a song called “Fuck Tha Police”. Do I really need to explain how that would be considered controversial?
The strength of the movie is easily the first sixty percent of the film. Director F. Gary Gray makes this thing so damn laser focused, executing each plot point and conflicting moment with sharp precision. Around the time in the movie where Ice Cube officially leaves the group, the story gets a little... mixed up. All of the pieces are definitely there: the second N.W.A. record, Ice Cube’s diss track on his second solo album, Suge Knight’s terrifying “managerial” tactics, the works. But it’s not organized. A fellow critic wrote that it felt like a completely different director took over in the second half of the film. Now, I don’t agree with that. I can see what Gray was trying to do, and the parts all made sense, but the lack of organization in the second half of the film doesn’t work quite as well as one would hope (although the ending is rather emotional, and features a touching tribute to Eazy-E, who unfortunately passed away due to complications from AIDS).
Regardless, this is going to be one of the most talked about films of the year, and is shaping up to be one of the most critically acclaimed, despite the misshapen second half. I still highly recommend this film. Whether or not you know their music, there is a great story here that is ready to pull you in. Don’t miss it.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.