Going into the film Straight Outta Compton, I had a lot of expectations about what the film would be about. I assumed that it would take a long hard look at Compton, Los Angeles, a ghetto notorious for violence, crime and police discrimination in the 1980s. The filmmakers really weren’t fooling around when they named the movie “Straight Outta Compton”, because it literally takes the audience out of poverty and struggle into fame, fortune and musical intrigue extremely quickly.
The movie chronicles the early careers of established artists Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Easy-E, depicting their rise to fame, the fallout of their group N.W.A and the subsequent conflict that erupts as a result.
The one criticism I have for the film, besides the obvious misogyny that’s left unaddressed, is that it opens too many fronts in the course of the film. The social backdrop of racism, police brutality and discrimination is extremely interesting, yet it’s not really dealt with for more than a few scenes. The music that the artists themselves said, “defined a generation”, but we’re left hearing only a few tracks throughout the film and not in their entirety. Ultimately, at least personally, the least interesting thing about this film was the inter-artist drama which seemed to dominate the film’s second half.
Grumbling aside though, this movie was funny, pithy, historical, political and just a damned good film all at the same time. To be able to accomplish that is a massive feat. This is in no small part a result of the amazing casting and performances by relatively unknown actors. That being said, I must admit that O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s role as Ice Cube (his real-life father) was phenomenal – he easily stole almost every scene he was in.
The film was lovingly crafted, and seems to be a relatively accurate portrayal of the events, at least in the eyes of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.
N.W.A’s protest anthem, “Fuck tha Police” debuted in 1988 on the Straight Outta Compton album, and it’s relevance even today is shocking, if not disturbing. Race relations in the United States, police brutality, systematic discrimination remain a topic, which creates the perfect social backdrop for the film. Everything about this film just screams a ‘magnum opus’ of our times, and as a result, it seems that it’s become a social phenomenon, receiving widespread critical and audience acclaim. If you’re one of about ten people who is yet to see Straight Outta Compton, correct that now.