Sunday, August 23, 2015

Movie Review - Straight Outta Compton

I won’t mince words with this review. Straight Outta Compton is a masterpiece. The movie is a perfect portrayal of South Central Los Angeles, California, during the late 80s and early 90s. The film does an exceptional job at paining the all too real picture of what life was like at that time in that area of the world. Police harassment, racial tensions, gang violence, and in some small parts, real people just trying to make a life.

The unnecessary police brutality, the hatred for color, the thoughts that every black man was slinging drugs and carrying pistols was brilliantly captured on this film. At one point, I could feel my own hatred of the police force seething inside of me. During one particularly tense scene I wanted to scream out, “They did nothing wrong!” That’s how powerful Straight Outta Compton is. It took me right back to the days of my teenage years as I watched all of the needless violence spin out of control from the safety of my suburbia. I didn’t live in the places that these young men did, but I felt their pain nonetheless. And I chanted along with their music. I sang “Fuck Tha Police” as loud as I could with the same amount of hatred, but I would never know the same struggles.

Yet, Straight Outta Compton reminded me of that time in life. And it put a lot of the pieces of the puzzle together for me. I never understood the real reason why Ice Cube left the band, and furthermore, why he started to hate on his former rap mates. I never understood why Dre and Easy E had a falling out. And I never knew how early the violence of Suge Knight showed itself. Straight Outta Compton answered all of those questions for me and more.

What was really going on behind the scenes? The metal heads on sunset were having parties for the decade and enjoying every moment of the never ending 80s. Apparently, the same was true for the gangsta rap community, only their parties were bigger and better. Watching Straight Outta Compton showed me that the story of N.W.A. was not much different than many of my other heroes growing up, mainly Motley Crue. Straight Outta Compton could be the other side of The Dirt. Both groups had similar ambitions, similar tensions, and similar problems that led to their downfall and ultimate dismantle. Race was the only difference separating these worlds. And unfortunately, N.W.A. had a much harder struggle due to their skin color.

And while I applaud Dr. Dre and Ice Cube for everything that Straight Outta Compton did contain, I was also a little disappointed by what it did not contain. While there is plenty of coverage for “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck The Police,” there is none for “A Bitch Is A Bitch” or “One Less Bitch.” The controversy caused by these songs was almost as grand and there isn’t even a whisper about them in the film. There is no talk of Sinead O’Connor’s rant regarding “One Less Bitch.” No mention of Dr. Dre’s beating oof a female reporter. In the interest of portraying themselves as heroes, the producers conveniently left out the darkest times of their career, and that’s a shame.

The real heroes of the film are the actors themselves. Jason Mitchell (Easy-E), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube), and Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre) were simply brilliant in the roles. They had the look, the swagger, and the understanding of what this rap group stood for. And their acting sells the film. You feel their pain, and you understand their joy and ecstasy.

No stranger to playing controversial roles as the villain who sees himself the hero, Paul Giammati’s take on manager Jerry Heller is exceptional. This is an Oscar worthy performance very reminiscent of Giammati’s role as Pig Vomit in Howard Stern’s Private Parts.

R. Marcos Taylor is brilliant as a young and hungry Suge Knight. The former Vegas bodyguard turned record company executive, Taylor shows us how angry and violent Knight was at such a young age. Anything would set him off for any reason, and he wasn’t afraid to pistol whip someone for almost no reason at all. The fear that Dr. Dre felt the longer he was around Knight is clear, and Taylor does some of his best work in helping move that fear along.

Dark, violent, and at times downright scary, Straight Outta Compton is the purest movie about gangsta rap that will ever be made. It magnificently captures the real struggles of the time and what life was really like back then. As the film grows, its characters grow as well and Straight Outta Compton reveals everything, leaving no stone unturned. The film is true to what happened and how it happened, even when everyone involved was wrong. Straight Outta Compton, like N.W.A. themselves, offers no apologies for being real and showing the truth. And that is the biggest reason why this movie is flawless and a true masterpiece. If Straight Outta Compton gets snubbed at the Oscars next year, that will be the biggest crime of the band’s career.

Ryo’s Rating: A

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