Straight Outta Compton
Named after their 1988 debut album, Straight Outta Compton follows the rise and fall of the hugely influential gangsta rap group NWA from the mid-1980s through to founding member Eazy-E’s untimely death of AIDS at the age of 31. Produced by former members of the group, Dr Dre and Ice Cube, and starring the latter’s son (O’Shea Jackson Jr) as the younger version of himself, this biopic is an atmospheric, gritty depiction of race, friendship, music and money.
The film is focused primarily on building up the characters of Easy-E, Ice Cube and Dr Dre, with MC Ren and DJ Yella both peripheral side notes. They meet Jerry Heller, played by a very white-haired Paul Giamatti, who sees potential in their music, eventually managing them and finding them a label. National success comes soon after and the short-lived innocence of uncomplicated youth is replaced by jealousy, greed and egos.
A couple of tensions underpin the whole film. One is racial. The police are a bigoted, violent pack in badges, treated almost like pantomime villains at times. The director does well in squeezing in this necessary highlighting of race issues – an indignation that so spurred on NWA in the first place – inside of two and a bit hours. The other tension is friendship. Because, ultimately, this is a story about friends and how they deal with each other once the strains of fame and its insidious corollaries have crept in. There are solid, believable performances from the three protagonists, especially the pathos-twinging moment when Jason Mitchell (playing Eazy-E) is told he has HIV. Meanwhile, the minimal role that women play is reduced (unsurprisingly) to mostly sexualised doll-type objects to be seen and not heard.
The overall attempt at recreating a 30-year-old period is commendable, and well thought out too, using Compton and its surrounding environs as settings and having the cast speak in heavy West Coast accents (for which occasional helpings of subtitles wouldn’t go amiss). Eminem and, most recently, The Notorious BIG have had biopics released to varying success, but Straight Outta Compton can now safely be hailed as the blueprint for any future rap/hip-hop retrospectives.
Straight Outta Compton is released nationwide on 28th August 2015.
Watch the trailer for Straight Outta Compton here: