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August 14, 2015

Review: ‘Straight Outta Compton’ is the best Hip Hop film since ‘8 Mile’

— Posted by The "Superior" Anthony

Director: F. Gary Gray
Writers: Jonathan Herman (screenplay), Andrea Berloff
Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giammatti, Neil Brown Jr.



The group NWA emerges from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.


Straight Outta Compton is a love letter to all west coast hip hop fans of the later 80’s and early 90’s, (Everyone), and is actually a pretty fine film to boot. It’s a movie I didn’t have too much initial interest in seeing dismissing it as something that would likely be uninteresting and formulaic, basically judging the moving without even giving it a shot. Thankfully I was convinced to see this movie and I don’t regret that decision at all.


First and foremost this movie is fun. The writing and story was above average and kept me entertained throughout the 2+ hour run time. The movie initially gave me the impression that it would be a borderline dark action flick from its openings but began showing that there were layers to the storytelling in the film that completely caught me off guard. At one moment the film is a thriller, in another it’s a comedy, later the film gets pretty heavy with the dramatic storytelling but it kept things balanced not letting me linger in one mood for too long before I lost interest. Did I mention this movie is fun? There’s something surreal about seeing the actors recreate iconic moments in the history of NWA and recording some of their most well-known songs. There were people in the theater rapping along with the film making feel somewhat ashamed that I couldn’t join in due to my negligence. I walked out thinking I should have listened to NWA songs before watching in order to be prepared and not doing my homework cost me. Who know the director of cult classic ‘Friday’ had this ability in him? I sure didn’t.


The movie introduces us to Ice Cube, (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), fairly early in the film in another moment that married drama, thriller, and comedy all in a completely unexpected enjoyable package. I guarantee people will have some water cooler talk about the school bus scene. GUARANTEED. Jackson Jr. and company are also pretty capable actors in the film. I’m not sure how easy most of these guys were able to relate to the source material but Jackson Jr. is the clone biological son of rapper Ice Cube and his ability to recreate the gangster rappers’ mannerisms stole the show. This guy always seemed ready to whoop some ass, even when smiling. That threatening brow of Ice Cube is his trademark and you can’t help but want to see Jackson Jr. enter a scene and make things more entertaining. Stole. The. Show. That’s not to say the other guys are slouches, Giammatti is overly entertaining as usual, but this character is polarizing.


Now for a group billing itself as “The World’s Most Dangerous Group” or whatever the story does have a habit of vilifying everyone who isn’t in NWA. Police Officers, Managers, women, school kids, pastors. If you weren’t with them the film painted you as a dick. Now if you’re in or supportive of the members of the group or in the group itself then you’re practically a freedom fighter. Someone promoting freedom of speech and the uplift of the black community… by buying their albums or tickets to their shows. This is a tough pill to swallow and seems more than a little unrealistic. It doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film, and I may be nitpicking, but c’mon… these guys never had a day were they were dicks too? Not 1? Oh and Dee Barnes? Not in this movie.


Suge Knight got a bum rap in this movie. Yep, I said it. I find it impossible to believe that someone could be a selfish self-serving asshole 24/7/365. Yes, I know the irony of the statement considering his current legal situation and it might be just their perspective of him from those involved in the writing but good gosh this character could use some balance. Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and more make appearances toward the latter end of the film when things shift toward a heavy Dr. Dre focus as far as storytelling and highlights that not all members got even spotlight. For the most part the first two acts of the film was centered around Easy E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre with little of the film involving much of MC Ren or DJ Yella but it did recount their rise, fame, and the passing of Easy E is incredible and 3rd act is clearly Dre Day.


I can’t comment to the authenticity of everything but I guess things seemed authentic, but I’m a New Yorker commenting on California so I’m from the outside looking in. The film was certainly immersive but can any Californians comment and let me know what they think about the representation of their state and cities? Thanks!


Did I mention that the soundtrack is awesome? Stay for the end credits for new songs by Dre and friends too.


I Give ‘Straight Outta Compton’ an 8.5 out of 10



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