Straight Outta Compton
If you would told me one of the 10 biggest R-rated movies of all time was an N.W.A. biopic, I’d never believe you. But clearly the original gangster rappers struck a chord with a generation, and also our moment in time.
N.W.A.’s best known members, Beats billionaire Dr. Dre and gangster rapper extraordinaire turned family man Ice Cube, produced the film, and you can tell they had a roll shaping the narrative. Despite not having the cleanest record, each member comes up looking pretty clean, even though there’s plenty that will tell you otherwise. Even if that’s the case, almost every biopic is pretty celebratory and forgiving of its subjects, so Straight Outta Compton is no exception in this case.
The most interesting character in the film is also its central character, the late Eazy E. Eric Lynn Wright aka Eazy E is played brilliantly by Jason Mitchell, his first major role but one that won’t be his last. He captures the erratic, troubled, but good natured E. He plays an interesting opposite to Paul Giamatti’s Jerry Heller, N.W.A’s original manager who helped Eazy E start his own label, Ruthless Records. It seems like Giamatti has played this angry antagonist role a lot lately, but this is certainly is one of his most interesting roles: clearly caring for Eazy E but also certainly willing to take advantage of him. In most movies, they would make Heller a downright villain, but here, director F. Gary Gray depicts the truly complicated relationship that likely existed.
Straight Outta Compton certainly couldn’t have been released at a better time, as N.W.A’s fight against racial discrimination from the police is the top of the mind for many. The film depicts this sort of discrimination from the police in a scene that’s the impetus for writing “F**k the Police”. While I think in many ways they make this moment look more righteous and purposeful than it likely was, it certainly does well to spell out the importance of the song’s existence.
At a 2.5 hour runtime, I usually have a tough time paying attention. Straight Outta Compton is surprisingly entertaining throughout, even without any major storyline that carries from start to finish. While a bit cheesy and cleaned up at times, Straight Outta Compton is a great resource for understanding the history and importance of N.W.A.