|STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (director: F. Gary Gray; screenwriters: based on a story by S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff; cinematographer: Matthew Libatique;; editor: Billy Fox and Michael Tronick; music: Joseph Trapanese; cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube), Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Neil Brown Jr. (DJ Yella), Aldis Hodge (MC Ren), Paul Giamatti (Jerry Heller), R. Marcos Taylor ("Suge" Knight); Runtime: 137; MPAA Rating: R; producers: F Gary. Gray, Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, Scott Bernstein and Dr. Dre; Universal Pictures; 2015)|
|"When it lets its music talk, its
rage has street cred."
by Dennis Schwartz
Brooklyn-born F. Gary Gray
("The Italian Job"/"Be Cool"/"Friday")
tells the entertaining rags to riches story of the
West Coast seminal gangsta rap group (at
first called “reality rap”) from the 1980s, N.W.A.
In 1988 the outsiders laid on us the controversial
hip-hop tune of “F–k tha
Police”, a timeless incendiary work that became
their anthem. It put them on the side of the black
protesters who were trying to get word out to the
nation that on a daily basis black Americans were
abused by the local police. In the end, the
outsiders became the establishment and no longer
have the same feel to them.
political/musical biopic was produced by
former N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. The
story is by S. Leigh Savidge.
The writers include Alan Wenkus,
Jonathan Herman and Andrea
Berloff. When it lets its music talk, its
rage has street cred. When it tries to get heavy, it
turns sentimental and becomes a turnoff. Trying to
handle too many subplots and mythologize as noble
revolutionists their fellow rappers, the pic never
materializes into a believable or cohesive one and
only can excite us with its music--that is if you care
Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr., Cube’s
real son), cunning drug dealer Eric “Eazy-E”
Wright (Jason Mitchell) and the frustrated DJ
Andre (Corey Hawkins) come together in the studio
N.W.A. to bring about, in 1987, Ruthless Records.
Its other two members were MC
Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr.).
Their first album is the movie's title,
which was so radical it got the attention of the
know there's racial tension when we see our boys
hassled by the cops for hanging out in the street.
The rappers are energized by the bias and corruption
in the black community. They return the favor by
making their Jewish rock manager (Paul
Giamatti), a one time friend into an enemy. The
veteran manager promised to make them legit, which
meant he will bring in a mainstream white audience for
them. Something he did.
the LA riots took place in 1992 over the Rodney King
verdict and it grew rampant, the rappers were in the
midst of their meteoric rise to fame and fortune and
cashed in on an incident that was right up their
alley. But things did not remain perfect in their
world, as the group splits up over in-fighting and the
usual tribulations of the music business. Ice Cube
complains he wrote most of the tunes but is not
getting paid for it. When the pic runs out of rage, we
see their fight is about the money and the film loses
its power and the group's swagger begins to look like
just so much showbiz fluff.
The overlong film chronicles N.W.A.'s first cross-country wild-ass tour and dutifully gives us a laundry list of their greatest thrills. We observe the founding of Death Row Records with the former pathological bodyguard Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor), the solo successes of Cube's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Dre's The Chronic. These dull story lines leaves the movie sinking fast, as it goes adrift on material it can't adequately fit into its story without altering its rhythm.
REVIEWED ON 12/1/2015 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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