Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Straight Outta Compton

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Wasn't it hilarious when the studio released this as the latest Paul Giamatti film?  Ha ha, institutionalized racism is real and very depressing.

Straight Outta Compton – 4 out of 5

I’ll be honest, I’m not a gangsta rap fan but, like all genres of music, there are always songs here and there that I dig.  Regardless of my feelings towards rap ("California Love" is amazeballs, though!), I was completely sold the instant I saw this trailer for this and was definitely interested in seeing Straight Outta Compton.

"We're going to bring this next one down.  It's called "Fuck Da Police."

In the mid 80’s, five friends; Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), gather together under the leadership of their manager; Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), to offer up a brand new sound that speaks to a group of people who have yet to have a voice in the world of music.  With that, a revolution is created in the form of rap group N.W.A. and the story follows the men on their meteoric rise to fame, the controversy their music created and the drama that resulted from their egos and all the money that was born from their creations.

So, how scary was it for the guy playing Suge Knight?  I mean, if he gets the
performance wrong...I actually don't even want to finish that thought in case
Suge stumbles upon my blog.

Never thought I'd see the day when I would say, "Hey,
did you see Paul Giamatti in that gangsta rap
The first thing that struck me about the film is the fact the cast is scarily accurate to the real life counterparts.  Sure, Ice Cube is played by his actual son but that doesn’t change the reality that nearly everyone in this film not only looks like the person they are playing but perfectly captures their mannerisms and ticks.  It really made for some impressive performances.  I also really enjoyed Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller but, thanks to the marketing campaign that emphasized that he was in the film, I can’t help but wonder if his inclusion in cast was done for no other reason than name recognition and a backhanded way of expressing a lack of faith in the product or the cast.  I get it that the sad reality is that the general public won’t blindly leap into products that don’t offer up some sort of comfort in the form of brand recognition but having Giamatti really smacked of an executive saying, “We need a star.  People won’t see it without a star.”  Still, he was great in it but the real stars were the likes of Jackson Jr., Hawkins and Mitchell as Ice Cube, Dre and Eazy-E.  Those guys were incredible to watch and made the movie more than just a run-of-the-mill bio-pic.

It had to have been weird for Ice Cube's son to be playing Ice Cube and then
have a scene where he talks about having a kid which was him.  Strange.

The film also tells an absolutely captivating story about the rise of these men.  Like all bio-pics, elements of the story are altered (like the absence of Arabian Prince in the group), dramatized or even out-right left absent (like Dre’s spousal abuse issues) but I’ve come to accept bio-pics as stylized entertainment based on real events and not really a documentary-style approach to actual events. Liberties with what happens is expected and not really a problem for me when it comes to these films.  They are especially not a problem when the product is well made and this certainly applies here.  We don't hold the supernatural films to the same standard when they claim they are "based on a true story" so why should we expect 100% accuracy with our bio-pics?

Hawkins was pretty awesome as Dr. Dre.

Director F. Gary Gray really did something amazing with Straight Outta Compton.  The editing and music is fantastic but what I really enjoyed was the use of dynamic camera angles.  There is really some great camera work and shot composition that helps keep this film from being a formulaic, point-and-shoot style bio-pic that you would see anywhere else.

Okay, come on!  That's not an actor playing Tupac.  That really is Tupac.
I knew he was still alive!

The only real downside I had for the film is the fact that the story did drag during points when the film hit the second act and the group started to fall apart.  Additionally, the story has a habit of making leaps in their career and, while most of these jumps worked out just fine, there were a couple of them that felt slightly awkward but not all together distracting.  Aside from these small bummers in an otherwise perfectly crafted film, the story delivers on some amusing moments, flows beautifully through the amazing careers of these men, and really packs a punch with its drama and emotion.  Hell, it was hard not to tear up when Eazy-E succumbs to AIDS.

Thankfully, the film skips over all the conspiracy theories about how Eazy
had AIDS.

Straight Outta Compton is a compelling and very entertaining tale of a group who redefined what rap music was.  It features some amazing feats of technical know-how with its filmmaking, has a captivating and viciously entertaining story, and some truly awesome performances.  It does have a considerable running length and bio-pics aren’t usually the type of film that I come back to very often but I was very pleased with the final product that was this film and very impressed with everyone involved in making it.

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