The line between entertainment and art is a tough one to bridge, and it’s one that Straight Outta Compton rides to maximum effect. Utilizing it’s young and talented cast to maximum affect, the film is a great look at the passion of the music industry infused with a brutal story of race relations. Relevant and raw, it’s an electrifying story.
Starting in the mid 1980s, Straight Outta Compton follows the story of three rising young artists: Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), and Easy-E (Jason Mitchell), who struggle with finding jobs in the slums of Los Angeles. Using music as an escape, their single “Boyz in the Hood” becomes a hit, prompting the interest of music producer Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). As their influence rises, and the threats from authorities grow, N.W.A. becomes the most dangerous, and most powerful, group on the scene.
Though it’s a long film, director F. Gary Gray sets up a story that pays off in its subplots. The film’s central focus revolves around the inspiration of these artists, the prejudice that came as a result of their music, and the eventual legal troubles that surrounded the group. Not only does the film intertwine these stories throughout, but it proves to be an authentic and entertaining biography.
One of the film’s best qualities are the cast of characters, and the three dimensional quality of these characters, as they are shown to have redeeming and negative qualities. Jason Mitchell is captivating as Easy E, and his tragic story drives the emotional core of the film. O’Shea Jackson Jr. does a fantastic job at capturing the persona of his father, and Corey Hawkins’s moving role as Dr. Dre is worthy of an Oscar nomination. Additionally, Paul Giamatti is fantastic in his roles as Jerry Heller, and does well in a role that has many different qualities, including one of the most emotional scenes of the film.
Spanning generations and events, covering history and culture, Straight Outta Compton is a powerful biographical film with the strength of an ensemble. It’s a powerful story, and while the events of the film are interesting in their own right, it’s the work of Gray that makes the film relevant and thoroughly entertaining. Grade: -A