Not perfect, but damn close
Is it a surprise that I love this movie? Well, I do. And you will too. Because it is emotional. It is powerful. And it is epic. Straight Out of Compton raises the bar for musical biopics. From a phenomenal set design to masterful acting from everyone involved, Straight Out of Compton feels incredibly authentic. This isn't always in a good way though. There is one major problem with this film, and that is it's glorification of abusing women. There is one scene in this film that is incredibly uncomfortable to watch, as we get a long take of NWA in the middle of having sex with about 20 women as another guy looks for his "girl" amongst the women. This scene was incredibly uncomfortable, and will (and has) turned off a lot of women to the film. The film also conveniently forgets to mention Dr. Dre's near constant abuse of women, which has also upset a lot of people. Myself included. I guess really my biggest beef with the film is that it glorifies these people a little too much. That said, the film is still fantastic, and it features as much tension between NWA and authorities as a great drama might have. So, let's dive in, yes?
So let's talk about what this film does right. Aka almost everything. The set design is....absurd. Holy crap. This is one of the best set designs I've seen all year. The film covers a huge amount of ground, and each location feels authentic and real. Easily the best part of the movie, this film absolutely deserves a nomination for production design, as it will be hard to top it at any point for the rest of the year. The story is gripping. I was on the edge of my seat throughout entire sequences, mostly during NWA's time together, and I felt legitimately angry at the authorities as the events of the infamous Detroit show played out. Then I went from being angry to laughing my ass off as I discovered the true meaning of some of Ice Cube's early hits. One of the big reasons why I was with this film, even when the orgy scene occurred, was because of the acting. This film went with some lesser-known stars (including the bold choice of having Ice Cube's son play his father) and the film was significantly better because of it. The only well-known actor in the film was Paul Giamatti, and it was distracting whenever Giamatti was on screen. Had the film gone with some more popular actors to fill the roles of NWA it would have definitely been distracting. So kudos to the film going for staying true to story versus selling tickets.
Apart from the film's overlook/glorification of abuse, there are two other problems with this film. One is its runtime. At a lengthy 147 minutes, I couldn't help but feel that the story of NWA got a little too bloated. The pacing really suffered because of it. The pace of the film slows to a crawl right after NWA's breakup, but then it races to the finish in the final act. In this third act there are a bunch of cameos, but they felt forced because the film went from turtle speed to rabbit speed in about 30 seconds. The cameos, which are easy to miss if you're not paying attention, really felt like a way to allow fans of rap today to be like "Oh! He started because of NWA? No way!" and that's pretty much it. They are really surface-level cameos and nothing more. That said, this film is still awesome, and even though it glances over its treatment of women, I can forgive the film just because the rest of it is that good. If you're a fan of music, you owe it to yourself to check out this film. Well done, guys.
The Critique: While not without a few faults including and especially its treatment of women, Straight Outta Compton highlights the tension between African Americans and police, as well as the rise of gangster rap as a response to this, in a gripping and authentic manner. A must-see for our generation.
The Recommendation: Millennials and music fans? This is as much a must-see as any film this year.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome