US RELEASE: August 14, 2015
UK RELEASE: August 28, 2015
Dir. F.Gary Gray
Running Time: 2h 30mins
I’m about to say a shocking revelation, and it goes like this: I care NOT for Batman Vs Superman. The film means nothing to me. When it drops next year, I sincerely hope y’all enjoy the blockbuster, I’m sure it will be off the hook. Don’t mind me, I’ll be sitting here continuing to bring you great reviews and hot radio shows. It’s what I do.
You already know I don’t go to cinema for any old film. Nearly £10 to watch a movie… GOOD LORD… have I been away THAT LONG? My cousin who was with me when we went to the cinema with our brothers, asked how much a bottle of cola was. The woman turned round to him and said – £2:50….My cuz was like – “…..FORGET IT!!!” Yes people that’s two supermalts and a Cadbury’s Crunchie. A kebab and chips. 2 piece of Southern Fried Chicken & Chips… WITH A DRINK!
Don’t get it twisted – I am appalled by the prices but this was a special moment. Five grown brothers between the ages of 35 – 43 excited like little kids anticipating the viewing of Straight Outta Compton, the REAL superhero movie of citizens from the hood versus the corrupt cops and the federal government, something which is still relevant and more re-occuring as of late.
A biopic about the rise and fall of Hip Hop’s most dangerous group, the successes, tragedies, the management, police brutality, and brotherhood. Directed by the same man responsible for the first Friday film 20 years ago, has F.Gary Gray created another classic that 20 years later, my brothers will still be talking about while we slamming dominoes at family get togethers?
Die-hard fans know the story pretty much inside out, but for the more casual hip hop fan or those who want to know more of the history, I’ll explain the movie’s plot.
Considering that there were 5 members in the Compton Collective, the movie’s focal point revolve around Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr.Dre (Corey Hawkins) & Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr). One being business minded, another having such a passion for music, the other with a vast knowledge and writing skills. They have one thing in common: continuous police harassment. Guys are merely on their travels or just simply standing there and the police can’t help but abuse their authority.
Through trial and error searching for MCs to make it big, the group take it among themselves to get in the booth to create records. Early success from Eazy calls forth the attention of a one Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), who promises to take Eazy and the crew to worldwide fame, and he delivered…but it didn’t come without its controversies.
Most NWA fans know the story, but knowing what happened with Heller, the audience can not help but love Giamatti’s on-screen character in the early going. Standing up to the police while they have the ‘gang members’ on the floor was a delightful sight. This was the trigger that led to the group’s most dangerous record.
As the saying goes: ‘If you tell someone NOT to do something, they will do it’. The single ‘F**k Tha Police’ hit secret power points within America’s law enforcement and warned the group not to perform it on stage. This is a great scene as the group blatantly defied and refused to conform and performed the track anyway, and one officer looked like he was tempted to bop his head but knew he had to carry out his duty. Riots erupted and the police soon out runs NWA. Arrested and thrown in a van, all five guys were actually laughing about it.
Ice Cube quickly discovers Heller’s questionable strategies and realises everyone is getting the short end of the deal apart from Eazy. Cube leaves the group, joins Priority Records and records the infamous diss track ‘No Vaseline’ aimed at his former group and boss. While the group found the diss track amusing, it is Heller who is so riled up he looked like he wanted to go in the booth himself and record a response.
The group’s success reaches the eyes and ears of Suge Knight (R.Marcus Taylor). Knight approaches Dre and lures him to Death Row Records. The move costs Eazy a vicious beat down, and Knight’s violent demeanor was one Dre never anticipated nor did he sign up for.
When Eazy’s eyes were finally open, he wanted to reform the group but this time without Heller. It seems like bridges were about to be rebuilt and Heller looking like he’s gonna have a breakdown, but then Eazy is diagnosed with HIV and passes away. This brings the group back together and brings Dre to a revelation.
The movie’s most memorable scenes include the groupie party which had the movie theatre in laughter. The way Eazy frightened the party poopers off with Uzi’s was hilarious and the ‘ho’ in connection was thrown out the hotel by Cube was disrespectful, but hilarious at the same time.
Corey Hawkins’ movie role was portrayed as a noble one. All Dre was interested in was making that music, but he finds himself ridden with guilt and regret by not taking his brother on tour with him, had he took him, he believed that his brother would not have met his unfortunate end. Dre’s ‘fearless’ attitude against Knight has the audience rooting for his success, yet at the same time slightly unrealistic given Knight’s reputation.
But it’s O’Shea Jackson Jr, whose portrayal of his father had him emerge as the film’s true star because everything he did in the movie seemed natural to him to a point where your mind doubts you for a split second that you’re watching Ice Cube himself on-screen. His superior intellect against the press and the journalist is comedy gold and right and exact at the same time.
What this movie has done is cover ground for those who don’t know about one of Hip Hop’s great pioneers, and may surprise die-hard fans in places. While some may criticize the movie missing out scenes that may consider vital to the story, they need to realise two things: One, it’s a two and a half hour movie, which definitely didn’t feel that long because of the film’s pacing and keeping the viewer engaged throughout, and two, when the DVD/Blu-ray comes out in a few months, how do they know they won’t include deleted scenes and outtakes that might be interesting. Imagine if they did add such scenes. Not many films can hold the audience interest for over 2 hours as it is.
What I loved about this movie was the display of brotherhood, and watching the guys perform some of my favourite tracks that made me feel like a proud family member, as if I grew up with them. There are some great touches in the film such as Ice Cube writing the plot for what would be the classic ‘Friday’, you see him cracking up as he writes which showed a great sign, and the real footage used in connection with the Rodney King case. NWA was tired of hearing songs saying ‘Darling I Love You’ Which was why they came with something real. Best of all, Dre’s ‘Compton Soundtrack’ makes so much more sense now. The album is an inspiration to the movie, it’s not Detox, nor is it the Chronic/2001 and nor is it trying to match that. It’s a reflection of the film, and the way Gray had this film end was a way that there could be a follow-up, at the same time not necessary to do so, and then it finally hits you. Dr. Dre was just Talking To His Diary.