Directed by F. Gary Gray. Starring O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Yates Jr., R. Marcos Taylor, Carra Patterson
THE PLOT: In the late 1980s, hip hop group NWA emerged from the Compton California and not only captured the voice of disenfranchised African American youth at the time, but went on to become some of the biggest selling artists of all time.
THE VERDICT: STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is named after the first NWA album, which sold over three million copies, and was former group members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre worked with the filmmakers as co-producers.
The cast includes Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr playing his father, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, Neil Brown Jr. as DJ Yella and Aldis Hodge as MC Ren. Paul Giamatti also turns up as the group’s former manager Jerry Heller. The cast do well with the roles they are given; Jackson Jr’s performance as ice Cube is sympathetic and intimidating at the same time, Hawkins makes Dre the driving force behind the group and Paul Giamatti, fresh from playing a corrupt manager in LOVE AND MERCY, takes on the mantle again.
With Dre and Ice Cube on board as directors, the group were almost always going to come out of the film looking good, but Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff’s screenplay makes them feel relatable and real, as well as the heroes of their own particular tale. The story carefully shows the drug addled, corrupt and violent place that Compton was in the 1980s, with some of the police brutality shown on screen coming off as shocking and vicious. This gives context to the film and the world that the artists came from, but once the film moves away from this opposition, and opposition begins to come from within the ranks, things get messy and much less focused.
Director F. Gary Gray has been quiet since his last cinematic outing with Law Abiding Citizen, but returns to tell the story of NWA; perhaps because he has worked with many of these artists in the past – most memorably, Ice Cube in Friday, which is given a nod in the film. The film is strong to begin with; the audience is given a sense of the time and place that gave rise to NWA calling themselves such, their need to do something with their lives, and their protest song ‘F*** Tha Police’. This takes up the first half of the film, leaving less time to tell a longer story and, once the group begin to go their separate ways, the film struggles to hold everything together. That said, the performances are strong, the soundtrack is killer and although we know these people are not angels, the film makes sure audience sympathy is with them. As well as this, the film captures the energy of NWA’s first album, and it’s infectious.
In all, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is not a film just for the fans; this is an underdog tale, well told. There are times when the film feels messy and, at 2 hours 20 mins, far too long, but it hard not to root for these young artists who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and made some mistakes along the way.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Straight Outta Compton
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.5Infectiously energetic
  • filmbuff2011

    Straight Outta Compton captures the uneasy mood of US race relations in the late 80s and early 90s by telling the story of controversial rap group N.W.A. Starting in 1986, the group is set up by African-Americans Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Junior), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Junior) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge). Growing up in the ghettos of the LA suburb of California, where violence, guns and drugs are a way of life rather than accessories, they use the street poetry of rap to reflect their harsh reality. Jerry (Paul Giamatti) sees something tough and realistic in their music and signs up to be their manager. Soon enough, their music is provoking heated debate in the media about the glamorisation of gang culture. This draws the attention of the police, who constantly harass them and suspect them of doing more than just create music. This results in one of their more infamous tracks, **** Tha Police. But then fractures start to appear in the group and the personalities start to bump heads, rather than concentrate on their art… Straight Outta Compton essentially charts the rise and fall of N.W.A. during a period of troubled race relations in the US. The infamous LA riots over the police beating of Rodney King form the backdrop at one point. Although the story may seem somewhat unfamiliar in this part of the world, what’s really interesting about this film is the way it still feels frighteningly relevant. Not much has changed in the last 30 years in the way young African-American men are regarded by the police. Just look at news reports from the US over the last few years or watch Fruitvale Station to feel the pulse of the nation. Director F. Gary Gray, who worked with Ice Cube on Friday and has also directed The Negotiator and Law Abiding Citizen, creates an entertaining and at times emotionally charged depiction of the realities of life in Compton. At one point, Ice Cube says ‘speak a little truth and people lose their minds’. Indeed. The performances are uniformly well-tuned, with Mitchell and Denzel Washington-lookalike Hawkins being the stand-out. As always, Giamatti lends excellent support as their manager. At 147 minutes, it feels about 20 minutes too long. It also never really addresses the more controversial aspects of N.W.A.’s music from a more reasoned perspective. There’s no one character from the media or the Government to simply step forward and challenge what’s happening, to give the story a more rounded perspective. But Straight Outta Compton has a lot of good things going for it, which makes it a worthwhile watch. ***

  • Clive Bower

    Really Enjoyable Flick, not just you usual rap flick much much better than that .
    I remember most of the happenings of that time when I was younger hard to believe it was such a different time. Well worth a look at in the cinema .