Review: Straight Outta Compton Is A Bit Long But Endlessly Fascinating To Watch
Title: Straight Outta Compton
Director: F. Gary Gray
Screenwriter: Jonathan Herman (screenplay), Andrea Berloff (screenplay), S. Leigh Savidge (story), Alan Wenkus (story), and Andrea Berloff (story)
Principal Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Yates Jr., and Paul Giamatti
Summary: The group NWA emerges from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.
I’m not going to try and lie to say that I knew anything beyond the basics of NWA and their music when I went into Straight Outta Compton. The rap genre is something I’ve only come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older and I’m still a bit too young to have listened to much of the music depicted in this movie. I really was going into this with only bare bones knowledge and a lingering feeling I tend to get with a lot of movies based on true stories. Those movies are often told better and with more honesty once the people in question have passed away.
Straight Outta Compton runs a little on the long side but the story was interesting and compelling even to a complete outsider like myself.
There are two things a movie like this needs to do well to make it work. The first thing it needs to do is give some background to the new and the old about what circumstances would occur to make a group like NWA form. In this aspect Straight Outta Compton really nails it as it shows the state of the world that young black people were growing up in during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It really feels like a look into the past that isn’t too far away. They show police brutality against young men for how they look instead of what they are doing which is something that continues to happen to this day. Straight Outta Compton doesn’t feel like it could have taken place two decades ago in some ways and in others it does. It does a great job capturing the violence, frustration and anger that made the young men of NWA rise up the way they did.
The second thing a movie like this needs to do is show the various states that a group like NWA goes through as they begin to rise to the top of the charts. In this way the movie is a bit too generic as it feels like every other “rags to riches” story that we’ve seen so many times, but it’s done from a different angle that the audience isn’t used to. Straight Outta Compton covers everything from the writing and recording of the infamous “Fuck The Police” to the breakup of the group some years later over contracts. I’m not familiar with the source material so I’m not sure how accurate it all is, but even if they expanded a lot or a little it stayed interesting enough to overcome the only real flaw in the production, run time.
Straight Outta Compton is nearly two and a half hours long. There are very few movies that can justify that length these days, and in this case I think the movie was a little too long. It was all interesting enough that it kept me interested but near the end I was beginning to get that same “antsy” feeling I get with any long movie. The pacing was good so while it was long it never got boring, but they could have shaved some time off of it and still kept a great movie. The exceptional casting makes up for a lot of it with the leads looking like the men they are playing to almost terrifying degrees. The cameo by Keith Stanfield as Snoop Dogg and Marcc Rose as Tupac are almost frightening with how well they are done.
Straight Outta Compton isn’t for everyone and runs a little long, but as someone who only appreciates the genre of music it is depicting it kept me engaged. For someone who is invested in the history of the genre it’s a must see. Even if you aren’t I think it’s worth a look if only because, like last years Selma, it shows just how little has changed in two years when it comes to racial tensions.