A GREAT TRIBUTE TO EAZY-E AND THE REST OF NWA:
I’ve got to say before I start this review that I have a history with NWA, especially Eazy-E and Dr. Dre. Growing up my parents primarily listened to rock music but one of the few rap groups and artists my dad listened to was NWA and Eazy-E. As a child I didn’t understand the significance of their music and how it effected pop culture, specifically hip-hop and rap, but what knowledge I did have on the group was passed on to me by my father so I’d like to thank him for that. Listening to NWA segued into me listening to Dr. Dre’s later music, Tupac and Eminem who have all been some of my favorite artists of all-time and listening to rap music growing up really shaped who I am today. Needless to say I was really looking forward to Straight Outta Compton due to my background with hip-hop and rap but also because of the compelling story of how these young men changed the landscape of music forever.
Straight Outta Compton is a great portrayal of their story in my opinion and even though it may not all be completely accurate as far as events that occurred, I still think director F. Gary Gray delivered a strong film with great performances and a surprising amount of humor that I thought worked really well. Like every movie, Straight Outta Compton has its flaws but overall I really love the movie and think people who are fans of rap and NWA will love it and even people who aren’t fans will appreciate it for a good story about real human beings.
Before I jump into detail, check out the synopsis below to get an understanding of the story:
Straight Outta Compton Synopsis (IMDB):
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.
Using my new formula to review movies, where I take the five most important elements of film-making (in my opinion) and score each of those concluding with an overall score of the combined elements, let’s take a look at what worked and what (very little) didn’t work for Straight Outta Compton.
Script- Story (Plot), Dialogue & Characters
This aspect of the movie was mostly set up before the movie was even started production since the characters are real people and the story really happened. All that was left to do was portray the characters and story correctly and develop a script with compelling dialogue around these events. I’ve got to say that the team of writers on this did an excellent job of telling the story and creating dialogue that worked very well for the characters and the actors playing them. The script has elements of drama, humor, sarcasm and depth that I think are all necessary to create a fun, entertaining and compelling story. Props to the team of writer which, according to IMDB, includes Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus. There were a few lines in the movie that I thought were cheesy but other than that the script was on-point.
Considering all of these aspects of the script, I give story, dialogue and characters a 9.5 out of 10.
Direction- Pacing, Acting and Structure of Overall Movie
The first hour of this movie is absolutely incredible and had me thinking that this could be one of the best movies of the year (it still might be). The opening scene is amazing and that momentum continues with the introduction of each member of NWA, the pacing and the way each scene follows the one prior to it. I was hooked from the get go. The second half of the movie is when the tone and pacing started to throw me off a little bit as they got a little too serious compared to the beginning of the movie, even though the story and real events that occurred made it necessary to get more serious, and it just felt like a different film in the last hour. There was some really great stuff in the second half but there were also some questionable things which wouldn’t of stood out as much if the first half of the movie wasn’t so damn good.
The best thing in this movie could possibly be the performances. Two actors stood out to me specifically in Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre) and Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E). I thought Hawkins did in incredible job of portraying Dr. Dre while knocking it out of the park with his mannerisms and swagger but the guy who stole the show for me is Jason Mitchell who showed impeccable range from anger, humor and sadness. I am very impressed with both of these actors and will have my eye on what they do next. One thing I wasn’t sure about going into this movie was O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who’s Ice Cube’s son) playing his father. The reason I wasn’t sure about it is because O’Shea Jackson Jr. wasn’t really an actor prior to this movie but I have to give credit where credit is due and man did he do a great job of portraying his father. I don’t think he gave the strongest performance in the movie but considering his lack of experience as an actor, he did a really good job. Paul Giamatti also gave a stellar performance as the group’s manager Jerry Heller.
Considering the great performances, the strength of the first two acts and the uncertainty of the third act, I give direction an 8.5 out of 10.
Technical Aspects- Special Effects, Cinematography, Editing, Choreography & Extras.
Like I said before, I’ve had experience with rap throughout my life and I even know what goes into recording and producing rap music since I’ve participated in such things before. With this knowledge, I must say I was really impressed how they portrayed the process of recording the music and how they used the real voices from the songs and made it look like the actors were rapping the music with their voice. There is a really hilarious scene with Eazy-E when he first steps in the booth and it is pretty accurate with what would happen with a first time rapper. I truly appreciated how they correctly portrayed recording rap music.
The musical elements were extremely high quality in this movie, especially when the group is performing on stage. In a way it kind of felt like I was at their concert and got the feeling that someone actually experiencing the concert live may have felt. I would definitely recommend seeing this movie in a theater with some type of high quality sound system since the music is a primary reason Straight Outta Compton is so great.
Aside from the music, for a movie that didn’t have to rely on scenery too much I really dug the look of the film and how it captured southern California. Some of the aerial shots were just beautiful and I loved the way the camera moved during the scenes in the neighborhoods of Compton.
With the musical elements being so great and there being no major flaws in any of the technical aspects, I give this part of the film a 10 out of 10.
Genre- How well does the movie play to its genre?
Now this movie is considered a drama but it’s also a biography (biopic) and a music movie. As far as drama, I think the movie’s dramatic elements were damn near perfect. With the group’s story as a whole and the individual dramatic things that happened to the members in real life, this story lent itself well for some really dramatic moments and they were executed brilliantly.
The biographical part is where things get a little tricky. While don’t expect any movie based on true events to portray them 100 percent accurately, I would still appreciate honesty and for the film makers not to sugarcoat some of the darker stuff involving the story and the characters. Unfortunately the people who the movie is about, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, had a large say in what went into the film and how they were portrayed in the movie. Now I don’t know all the facts of what occurred but I do know that Dr. Dre wasn’t exactly the saint that he was portrayed as in this movie. I’m not going to go into detail about what they did and didn’t include but I would just appreciate a true portrayal of these characters without the real life people having a say in it. However, as a biopic in general and portraying the impact NWA had on society and musical culture, the film did a really great job at showing the audience how the group came together and how much they effected society.
Like I said under the technical elements, the musical aspects in this movie are phenomenal and if you’re a fan of rap/hip-hop or even just music you’re going to love these parts of the film.
Considering the dramatic and musical elements playing very well to their genre and the biographical part being hit and miss, I give genre a 7.5 out of 10.
Entertainment Value- Overall enjoyment of the movie and Crowd Reaction.
Surprisingly enough, one of the things that really stood out to me is the comedy in this movie. I think people undervalue comedy in all movies as a necessary tool to keep audiences engaged because people love to laugh and if you can sprinkle in several comedic moments to compliment the drama then that’s a real accomplishment in film making. Straight Outta Compton does this amazingly and I was really surprised how much the crowd, and myself, were laughing throughout the entire movie.
What more can I say about the musical aspects of this movie. They were absolutely incredible and are the primary reason Straight Outta Compton is so enjoyable.
One thing I could complain about as far as entertainment and enjoyment of the movie is that in the last forty-five minutes it really slowed down and got really dramatic. While I liked most of these scenes I think it threw off the momentum and tone of the movie and the audience for sure noticed.
With the movie being very enjoyable and entertaining throughout by getting laughter and excitement out of the crowd, with a few slow moments, I give entertainment value a 9 out of 10.
Overall I really love Straight Outta Compton partially due to my love for rap music and the artists it’s about but also because it’s just a really well told story and very entertaining movie. Calculating all the scores of the five elements I come to the final score of 44.5 out of 50 which gives Straight Outta Compton an 89 % (B+) which I think the film is totally worthy of.
How about you movie lovers?! Have you seen Straight Outta Compton? If so, let us know what you thought in the comment section!