Straight Outta Compton Review: An Ode to the Talented From the Talented

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When the end credits roll for Straight Outta Compton, you’ll notice that two of the film’s subjects are credited as producers. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre had a hand in making the film about their rise to fame. What that says about the authenticity of the more intimate events portrayed on screen is up to you. On one hand, they were actually there and can attest to its accuracy. On the other hand, not many are given the chance to edit their own lives before it gets shown to the world.

Regardless, the film is a well-made music biopic that focuses on a genre that deserves more films of this quality. But rap unfairly still has to fight to be recognized as art. The rise of hip hop group N.W.A. in the late 1980s and early 1990s is a great vehicle for that. The young Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) are trying to express real truths in a genre that the white record label executives in the film roll their eyes at. That is until Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) comes in and gives these guys their first chance.

With events like the Rodney King trial happening in the background, Straight Outta Compton gains a new layer of relevance, all while reminding us just why the work of these artists was so celebrated to begin with. These songs still serve in important purpose today in our culture, as we live in an era where events like what happened in Ferguson and Staten Island are starting a new civil rights movement. The film’s politics occasionally feel a little tacked on, but they work well enough to establish the film’s era and tone that it’s more than forgivable.

Still, this is mainly the story of three artist that started together but would eventually divulge down very different paths. The actors all do an admirable job. As relatively fresh, untested talent, they manage to carry the film. It’s noticeable when their talents don’t measure up to the drama on screen, but they sell most of everything, and Giamatti is there to pick up the slack when needed.

But for what could have been a half-baked biopic about already beloved artists made to grab money ends up being a pretty great movie. It’s imperfect and stumbles here and there, but there’s no question that the narrative beats hit and things get pretty emotional by the end. Hopefully this film will open the doors to more stories from talented filmmakers about an artistry many fail to understand. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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