Man, N.W.A. is not a group I was really a fan of. Mainly because they came out when I was, you know, not born yet and I struggle to keep up with what’s going on in my time so I definitely take forever to go back and check for things that were before my time. I mean geez it took me forever to listen to Notorious B.I.G.’s classic albums and get around to seeing ‘Goodfellas’ (and that’s just to name a few). I’m getting off subject here but what I’m trying to say is that since I wasn’t a big fan of N.W.A. as a whole (I’ve been fans of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube separately) and the cast is full of a bunch of nobodies, I wasn’t dying to see the movie…even though their story was always interesting. Sometimes it helps to go into a movie not expecting much.
This is the biopic of the group N.W.A. There’s really no other way to say what it’s about. Or I guess you can add that it chronicles the rise and quick disbandment of the controversial group (and all the good stuff in between) that consisted of Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Easy-E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge).
Yeah, I Liked That
The movie starts with this intense drug deal gone bad that includes a police raid, Easy-E kicking bars off windows and jumping from rooftop to rooftop looking like a superhero. When I saw that, I was kind of confused about what I was watching. Was I about to watch a drug thriller/action flick? I wasn’t mad about it though because it really gets you hooked on the film from the very beginning. Now let’s stay on the subject of Easy-E. Mitchell’s performance as the late rapper was the clear standout of the cast. Jackson Jr. did a great job portraying his father (his strongest scene is when he angrily goes into Priority Records with a bat) as did Hawkins playing Dr. Dre but Mitchell’s performance required the most depth and he was able to withstand those challenges. Celebrities have been coming out in the news saying that Easy-E’s character in the movie wasn’t as “tough” as the real life Easy but that has nothing to do with Mitchell’s performance. He just worked with the character he was given and did a great job doing it. What I was really looking forward to seeing was the scene when Easy finds out that he has HIV (OOPS! I might have just spoiled something). That scene was going to need to convey some serious emotion and, I’ll admit it, I didn’t think Mitchell was going to be able to pull it off but it was nothing personal. I just didn’t think any of the lead actors were going to have good performances, to be honest. But that reveal scene was one of the strongest scenes in the movie because it comes off so raw and real that I wouldn’t blame you for actually thinking Mitchell really just found out he has HIV.
‘Straight Outta Compton’ not only gave you good acting but it also gave you laughs. Once of the funniest scenes comes when Easy first steps into the studio. His inability to rap is hilarious and Cube, Dre and Yella’s reactions only make it funnier. My favorite scene, though, has to be when Cube is riding on the school bus and some of the students decide to be fake tough guys and throw gang signs out the window to some legit thugs. The repercussions for those students stupidity is nothing short of classic cinema (yeah I said it) and also includes probably the best line in a movie I’ve heard all year when Mr. OG Two Tone tells the students they better start “gang banging their books”. Hahahaha!
With all the good acting and laughs, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ also did a good job telling the story of N.W.A. and giving you a sense of the vibe that was going on around them at the time of their ascension into stardom. The movie showed you the reasons the group came together, how the turmoil started to emerge with them, the reasons they broke up, and how they almost got back together. It shows all that and more but it also showed the relationship their community had with police and how it affected how they moved. The movie did a great job building up the constant disrespect the group was getting from the police that when they made their infamous song, ‘F*** tha Police’, it all made sense and justified. But man, if the cops were really as disrespectful to them as they were portrayed to be (because you know movies can exaggerate things)….there’s really nothing to say besides that’s just crazy. The scene where N.W.A. performs in Detroit is another great one (in a movie that is filled with them as you can tell) because it shows the bravery of the group to stand by what they say in their music and to stand up to the police. When you watch the aftermath of their actions, you feel for them even more and that’s what makes the scene so strong.
Yeah, I Didn’t Like That
Alright, time to play devil’s advocate like I usually like to do. I just got done talking about all the good ‘Straight Outta Compton’ showed but there are still some things that I wished it would have showed and shouldn’t have showed. Let me start with the shouldn’ts (yes that probably isn’t proper English) and the first one being the scene where a speeding Dre gets into a chase with the police. That scene adds nothing to the movie because nothing related to it comes after it. I’m pretty sure there were scenes relating to it cut from the movie because in the trailers there is a scene where he is in jail, which I’m guessing is because he was speeding from the cops. But if you aren’t going to mention it again or show anything else relating to it then it just becomes pointless and can be taken out. There are also scenes where Cube is shown working on ‘Friday’ and Dre mentioning his Aftermath label that came off so corny. It’s not that I wish those scenes wouldn’t have made the movie, I just wished they approached them differently. Not to get off subject but there were some moments in the third act of the movie that seemed like forced mentions of their success or cameo appearances…*cough cough…Tupac. It just all came off as corny instead of cool nods.
OK, now back to what I wish was in the movie. Everyone keeps making big deals about the abuse Dre put upon women being left out or all the other female disrespect the group placed upon the ladies but when the people who were involved are helping make the movie, what do you expect. So I wasn’t surprised at all but it would have made it more honest if they would have made more of a task to mention it. I also would have liked to see more involving the fallout of Cube leaving the group. I wanted to see the initial reaction the group had (was there a big argument or something between any members and Cube?) and more about the whole ordeal. In the movie it felt like the whole situation was brushed over rather quickly for all the information that was available. Other little things I would have like to see were what made Dre actually rap on songs when he clearly was the producer and DJ (I mean Yella rarely rapped and he held the same duties as Dre…to a very lesser extent though) and some music video reenactments. In an interview, the director, F. Gary Gray, did say that the Blu-ray will have a director’s cut that will have like an hour more worth of footage so that might right all the wrongs I just mentioned.
Before I go, I have to say this. Um…the actor who plays Snoop Dogg in the movie, Keith Stanfield, is a good a good young actor and did a good job playing Snoop but my goodness he looks nothing like a young Snoop. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way but it really bothered me whenever he would come on the screen.
‘Straight Outta Compton’ was a great look into the lives a group that wasn’t together long but still made a huge impact. The movie would have been even better if that third act didn’t struggle to find its footing and mention some of the group members’ successes in corny ways.
RATING: Must Own
P.S. Once again here is my rating scale. There are four different levels. Below is each level in order from best to worse and what each one means.
Must Own = A movie that is so good that I must add it to my Blu-ray collection when it comes out.
Would Accept as a Gift = I enjoyed the movie but don’t necessarily have to buy it (especially if I don’t have the funds to) myself but I would take it if someone bought it for me.
Might Rent = A movie that if I have the urge to watch again then I’ll just rent it from somewhere or Netflix it.
Never See Again = Very simple. I don’t want to ever see this movie again.
(Photo Credit: http://www.hngn.com/articles/82164/20150402/n-w-a-and-straight-outta-compton-movie-biopics-official-characters-poster-released-see-it.htm; http://www.voritos.com/straight-outta-compton-movie-2015-photo-collection/ ;http://www.the-numbers.com/news/205030830-Straight-Outta-Compton-Trailer)