So let me get this out of the way first: I didn’t listen to NWA at all. It wasn’t because I was against gangster rap. I didn’t listen to much rap at all. In fact, I didn’t go out of my way to listen to any music for the most part. The last ablums I bought were in the early eighties. When the late 80s came around I was into films and VHS tapes and working by butt off to keep a roof over my family’s head.
When I went in to watch STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON I was going without the previous knowledge of the story of NWA. From that perspective I figured I would enjoy the journey that the characters would take on their rise to fame.
To answer the first question on people’s minds; O’Shea Jackson Jr gave a great performance in portraying his pops Ice Cube. I was surprised that some people didn’t know that O’Shea was his son. Now you would think that it can’t be hard to play your dad in a film. I mean you grew up with him all your life and you actually have his DNA so some things you do are going to be reflecting your dad anyway. But this kid embraced the role and looked like he gave it all he had. I would love to see Jackson play in another dramatic but totally different role.
Corey Hawkins as Dre and Jason Mitchell as Easy E completed the triple threat of acting gravitas with the latter showing a great deal of character depth. Side note: Hollywood is missing out on using great talent among black actors by giving many roles to just a chosen few like Denzel or Berry.
And who can’t love Giamatti in any role he plays. One special quality of the film is how F Gary Gray and the rest of the writers gave equal weight to all three characters instead of the usual focus on a main character out of the ensemble. The story wasn’t rushed but was not at all boring. In fact the blend of naturally comedic moments with the drama and chaos worked very well. I didn’t expect some genuine laughs to come out of the story, but the cast showed some natural light moments as well as ones with drama.
And one other actor had a screen presence that made you hold your breath a little when he showed up on the scene. R. Marcos Taylor played the gangster among gangster producers and he killed it. I’m just saying, they should make a Friday The 13th like horror film based on Suge Knight. Did Taylor even blink in the whole film? I couldn’t tell ya.
The only thing that struck me funny was the lack of women in the story that added to the plot. There was Dre’s mom, but for almost two hrs women in the film were just half naked (or naked) backdrops to the scenes. Like I said, I didn’t know the story of NWA. I could be that they really didn’t have any women interacting with them on a business or personal level like that. But after talking with the so many other geeks that know the real story I can see that my suspicions were justified. Maybe it was a writing and story flow choice. I just thought it was odd.
Anyway, even if the film was partially fictional or left some of the real history of the iconic rap group out, I still enjoyed it on a cinematic level. I thought it was well told and kept my interest to the very end. The tone did take a dive in another direction towards the last 15 minutes, but it was understandable.