“Straight Outta Compton”

“Straight Outta Compton”
Directed by F. Gary Gray

Police-Brutality-in-Straight-Outta-ComptonNormally music bio-pics are either too bogged down by the need to include every major event in the artist’s life, or so obtuse it’s hard to know what the point was. One of the best at avoiding these extremes was this year’s fantastic “Love & Mercy.” It’s rare to get one such biopic every few years. This year there were two.

“Straight Outta Compton”, which documents the rise and fall of the newly elected members of the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, is not a great film, but it’s a really good movie. It manages to intertwine important moments in the groups development with a character driven three act structure. It’s paced very well and is the opposite of dull. It also accomplishes something most biopics do not…it keeps the social message intact throughout. Normally pop culture biopics never get very far in that area, tasked as they are with carefully coloring inside the lines. However, the script does occasionally, but infrequently, veer in to the soap opera lane.

The performances are, for the most part, pretty earnest and some are quite good. O’Shea Jackson, Jr (Ice Cube) and Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E) stand out. Corey Hawkins (Dre), forces it a bit, and just isn’t as natural a performer as the other two. Paul Giamatti, who we always considered one of the most versatile actors we had, is becoming pretty one-note as he gets older. His Jerry Heller is fairly indistinguishable from his performance of Dr. Eugene Landy in “Love & Mercy”. But he’s fantastic in the scene outside the recording studio. Andto round it off, a few of the actors playing minor characters just aren’t good enough to carry off the melodramatic scenes they’re saddled with.

But the soundtrack – the use of audio, in general – is the real superstar here. And, of course, that’s what drives this 6-4. Listen to it loud and in surround.

I don’t know if anyone out there who isn’t at least a casual fan of hip hop, old school or otherwise, would enjoy it at all. But for those of you who remember the early days of West Coast, prepare to move your head up and down for two hours.

Written 1/13/2016

 

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