Anytime you here the word biopic you tend to get a groan from a certain type of film fan (a type that I usually find myself among). Despite the fact that we have had biopics covering a large variety of people, they have a tendency to just feel so similar. So it’s a huge triumph for Straight Outta Compton that it quickly sets itself apart from the usual biopic. With a large scale and a point of view that has not only become important in recent years but has also been ignored for so long, Straight Outta Compton certainly has a unique feel even if director F. Gary Gray overdoes his powerful vision just a tad.
Straight Outta Compton follows the rise of west coast rap through the eyes of the pioneer hip-hop group N.W.A. For someone who hasn’t listened to much west coast rap let alone heard of many of the people in this film, F. Gary Gray and his team of screenwriters do a fantastic job of filling you in on who Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube are and why they are so important in 90s American history. The topics discussed in this film can be a bit insular in theory but they are portrayed here in a way in which anyone can understand them.
While the creative team behind this film has to be credited for handling so many characters and so many storylines within a constantly moving two hours plus run time, I can’t help but feel F. Gary Gray’s message that he portrays through the film becomes a bit misguided. It’s hard not to recognize elements of the Black Lives Matter movement throughout this film. However, Gray tends to portray the more controversial moments in this film in such a black and white manner. I think the themes that Gray goes for have merit but it gets annoying when the Rodney King police beating video is constantly being shown during the course of the film when it really has little influence on the plot of the film.
That being said it’s ultimately a tiny quibble in an otherwise well directed and acted film. Speaking of the acting, the film couldn’t have found a better trio of actors for its leads. Jason Mitchell is somehow able to capture the unique presence of Eazy-E with incredible ease while O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s real life son) does a fantastic job of standing in his father’s footsteps. However, it is Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre that delivers the film’s best performance. Hawkins is a clear star in the making that is able to have the charisma to make Dre the real star of the group while also able to bring a sense of sensitivity to the role that reveals an actor with incredible talent.
Straight Outta Compton is a surprisingly efficient film.