Straight Outta Compton: one of the best biopics in ages

Posted on 11 September 2015
By James Burcher
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Straight Outta Compton could have been a perilously controversial film; instead it has proved to be a fantastic homage to a group, which helped define an entire genre, something that seems to have been forgotten in rap and hip-hop’s climb into the pop mainstream over the last twenty years.

With the rise of Kendrick Lamar as the bright shining light of hip-hop and rap, coming from the area and the release of Dr Dre’s new album, Compton is back on the map again, although once more, for it’s violent and dangerous streak.

The film shows the rise and fall of one of the most dangerous music groups of all time- NWA and how they pushed into the mainstream representing the anger and frustrations of the time. The film does place special emphasis on Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E, some might say for good reason, but it’s easy to forget that MC Ren and MC Yeller where also quintessential parts of the group, but in the film are merely demoted to supporting characters and aren’t particularly fleshed out that well.

The main three do make up for this however, with some superb performances; particularly from O’Shea Jackson Jr who does a remarkable job as his father; Ice Cube. Jason Mitchell also stands out with his performance as Eazy-E, with these two in particular, I actually felt like I was actually watching the real people on screen, their likenesses where astounding and portrayal absolutely spot on in almost every way.

Corey Hawkins as Dr Dre does not fall into this category, not to say he gives a bad performance, far from it, he’s still good, he just isn’t as convincing as his compatriots. It also doesn’t help that Dr Dre’s character is portrayed in a very charming light to say the least, with the now well-publicised omissions of his episodes of beating women being completely non-existent in the film with only very minor hints that the majority of cinema-goers probably won’t even cotton on to.

The montage at the end of the film feels like an advert for brand Dre and it does slightly soil what was an enjoyable experience up to that point. The film starts off like a rocket and really doesn’t stop burning, it does threaten to fizzle out the middle half as the music takes a step back and contract disputes take over as the main point of interest, which does become tiresome after a while.

This also isn’t helped when members of the group start to break away and become solo, it does leave it a little fragmented, but at the same time, it allows to all come together rather nicely in the end. The ‘cameos’ of Snoop Dogg and Tupac are just the icing on the cake, their brief but very well done roles are just lovely nods to the audience.

It has a few rough patches and perhaps some questionable omissions and a very one-sided take on law enforcement, but Straight Outta Compton is a fantastic film, which brings one of the all time great rap groups back into the spotlight.

With some stellar performances from the cast and use of the real music from the time (cough cough, Notorious) it is a must see film, even if you aren’t a fan of rap music, you can appreciate the art and how it grew to be accepted through it’s teething problems in the mainstream and the establishment. You might even grow to love NWA by the end.

4/5