Straight Outta Compton Movie Review
Poor Straight Outta Compton. The biopic that made a ton of money and received tremendously good reviews raps its way onto Blu-ray and DVD, conveniently timed to be available to own just a few days after Oscar nominations were announced. Like that time you smiled at that pretty girl only to realize in horror that she was actually smiling at her friend standing behind you, Straight Outta Compton no doubt arrives having had some expectations of being nominated for Best Picture, only to be largely left naked and ignored.
In a year where once again all 20 acting nomination slots were filled by white folk, Straight Outta Compton--about a bunch of black dudes--got the shaft despite boasting some of the best reviews of 2015. I never was a rap fan, and could care less about NWA or their life in the hood, and surely the predominantly old, white men who vote for the Oscars did the same by taking one look at this movie and turning the other direction.
The problem is... Straight Outta Compton is really good. Surprisingly good. And more deserving than at least a couple of the actual Best Picture nominees.
Directed by F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Friday and some hip hop music videos) and written by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff--who were recognized by the Oscars for the screenplay (random or not-so-random fact: both are white)--Straight Outta Compton is a fairly standard, by-the-numbers biopic that nonetheless defies the genre thanks to its colorful characters and their less-than-peaceful early years. The little known cast, who play Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Easy-E, Mc Ren and DJ Yella, do a great job of bringing NWA to life--a challenging gig given that much of the crew is still very much a part of pop culture.
At two-and-a-half hours long, Straight Outta Compton’s biggest weakness is its length--it’s 15 minutes too long for its own good. Nonetheless, it’s still a highly entertaining film that educated me about the backgrounds of these guys, some of whom I’ll admit I never even heard of (and just to prove how out of touch I am/was, I was born in the 80s), and highlighted just how impressive their rise really was. Sure, it’s biased--Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are both producers, and both are shown in a glowing light most of the time--but that’s just how these things go.
Straight Outta Compton isn’t amazing, but it’s still among the better movies of the year. It may not have received much Oscar glory, either, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.