HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Straight Outta Compton
HTS Overall Score:90
Everyone knows the term “gansta rap”. Everyone knows the names of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Tupac etc, but before these guys were recognized by names it all started with NWA from Compton. Dre, Cube, Eazy E, Mc Ren, Dj. Yella, they were all friends back in the day who decided to start a band together and start making music. The rest is pretty much history as NWA has been copied, and used extensively in modern songs to the point where I’m pretty certain that each and every one of you know an NWA song and maybe don’t even know it. I was really intrigued when I heard that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre themselves were getting personally involved in the creation of this film and that Ice Cub’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., was playing the role of the man himself. However, I was also a bit reticent, for as much as I enjoy Ice Cube the actor, I’m not a personal fan of the gangsta rap culture due to the word “gangsta” playing a bit more liberally in rap culture than most people realize. So I went in with bated breath and came out mildly surprised and mildly torn at the same time. It’s a very well put together movie, it just happens to have so many characters in the film that I dislike on a personal level that I had a hard time agreeing with the rest of the cinematic world that the film is a 100% home run.
It’s back in the late 80s and a group of 5 or so friends from Compton decide that it’s time to start making some music together. Andre, soon to be Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), O’Shea Jackson..eg Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) are just living day to day, but want more out of the crummy existence they’re living. Eazy-E is dealing drugs on the side, Andre wants to be a Dj. And Ice Cube is giving it is his all as the vocalist for another group. They’re starting out in the “street” music of gangsta rap and pretty much sneered at by every modern musician and club owner. It takes one single hit and the notice of one Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) and poof, the boys are an overnight sensation as NWA.
To say that NWA was important to the gangster rap culture is an understatement. They basically started it all and created a following that allowed for the likes of Tupac, Snoop Dogg etc….However that fame didn’t come without some strife and internal squabbling. Signing with Priority records the group is helmed by Eazy-E (long thought of as the idea man of the group), but Ice Cube realized that he was being jerked around with his upcoming contract and left just before the album “Straight Outta Compton” was released to go solo. There begins the crumbling of the NWA empire as the rest of the group and Ice Cube start a musical sparring fest with the two entities going back and forth for years before coming to an amicable solution. Dr. Dre had his friend and confidant Suge Knight (R. Marcus Taylor) check out his contract and it became clear that Jerry and the rest of the top brass were messing with the rest of them, taking much more off the top than the artists deserved. Separating from the rest of the group, Suge and Dre fork out on their own in the early 90’s and create Death Row records, which has a name for starting some of the greats in the business.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=63233[/img]As the film progresses we start to see how a life of fame has worn on the boys from Compton. Dre is realizing that Suge is just a bit more hardcore than he’s willing to be and separates once more to strike out on his own, while Eazy-E has to face the fact that his life of excess and unprotected sex has given him a cough that will end his life in 1995. A cough that actually turns out to be the signs of aids. Ice Cube has fared the best of the crew, and continues to make music for years to come, but the life they live has consequences and many of them are living with consequences.
I will bluntly say that I’m not a fan of the gangsta rap culture and the violence and literally “gangsta” culture it promotes, but I do have respect for the men as musical artists. Ice Cube was huge during the 90’s in his singing career, but the man has mainly made a name for himself over the last 20 years as an actor. Who doesn’t remember “Friday” or “Ghost of Mars” or “21 Jump Street”? Dr. Dre. There’s really no need to even give an exposition for the man. Dr. Dre is one of the biggest producers in the rap industry and has become a household name with his headphones titled “Beats by Dr. Dre”. He’s also the first rap artist/producer to be a BILLIONARE after Apple bought out Beats by Dr. Dre for $2.6 BILLION dollars. He’s a shrewd businessman and recently put out his first album since the late 90’s a few months ago.
The film never feels forced or contrived, like they are just trying to recreate history. Rather it moves along organically and flows over and through the lives of these young men making a name for themselves. Not every one of the characters is nice, or perfect, or even likeable. However the movie is well crafted and doesn’t feel like a 2 hour and 47 movie (in its director’s cut form). Comparing back and forth between the 2 hour 27 minute theatrical cut and the 2 hour 47 minute director’s cut I have to say that the director’s cut flows just a little bit better. There’s a few more scenes of exposition and some explanation of the inner workings of Death Row Records which helps the narrative a bit.
There IS a few inconsistencies and untruths in the biopic, as is the case with most biopics that really show how much Ice Cube and Dr. Dre had in the making of the film. Eazy-E’s domestic violence issues that were well documented have been erased from the film as well as Dr. Dre being a bit nicer and more likeable than he was in real life. That and how easy it seemed for him to separate from Suge Knight and say sayonara to Death Row Records. Knight was shown to be a crazy psychopath gangster in the film, but in reality the man is SSOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much worse. In fact the real Knight is suing the film for making him seem like a “marshmallow” (which makes me shudder as his character is crazy enough in the film).
Acting wise, these guys hit it out of the park. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is spot on for his dad, walking, talking and acting like the real Ice Cube. In fact when I heard him sing his first song my jaw almost hit the floor as it was a perfect representation of his dad. Corey Hawkins nailed Dr. Dre almost as well. I’m not personally familiar with Eazy-E, MC Ren and the others, but they all had fantastic chemistry between each other. I was really surprised at Aldis Hodge playing MC Ren as I’ve always seen him as the clean cut Hardison on “Leverage”. These actors were what truly made the film great, as everything they did on screen flowed as smooth as honey. For those of you who remember the birth of gangster rap, these men are at the forefront of the invention and created an avenue for many more musicians and artists of the same persuasion to rise up to create one of the largest and most marketable musical genres in all of history.
Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=63241[/img]“Straight Outta Compton” comes to Blu-ray with a fantastic looking 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer that really sparkles. The film has a grungy look to it, but is technically almost perfect as the fine detail and amazing sense of depth really work for the film. Fine detail on the baseball caps and Raiders jackets look magnificent and the concrete jungle of the urban environment is dirty, beaten up, but razor sharp from every angle. Cherry red primaries pop with deep saturation levels (such as Suge Knight’s bright red car) as well as deep and inky blacks that saturate the whole film from the recording studio to the boy’s beaten up homes at the beginning of the film. I noticed a few moments of banding here and there, but nothing overly wild or overly egregious to my eye. A near perfect disc that looks about as perfect as the source will allow.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=63249[/img]While the video was great, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is simply impeccable. While the movie is not really ABOUT the music, said music plays an enormous part in the creation of the movie and the replication of said music is about as perfect as can be. Heavy bass lines ripple throughout the film at every turn and the surrounds are in constant furor as the music blasts from all angles. Vocals are crisp and clear as a bell whether they are coming from a microphone, or from the actors speaking to each other. The sound stage is incredibly dynamin, shifting from the band members talking amongst themselves to a rip roaring concert that makes you feel like you’re THERE in the concert itself. Kick drums impact with the weight of a huge hammer and the treble is amazingly sharp and clear. This is all around one of the sharpest and best sounding tracks I’ve heard in months and is well worth the price of admission alone.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=63257[/img]• Deleted Scenes
• Deleted Songs Performance
• N.W.A. The Origins
• Director's Journey
• The Streets: Filming in Compton
• N.W.A Performs in Detroit
• Becoming N.W.A.
• Director's Commentary
“Straight Outta Compton” is a bit over rated as a film, in my opinion. However part of that may be my own personal distain for the gangster rap culture playing a role in my enjoyment of the movie, so I fully admit that up front. It IS a very well-crafted film and if you are fans of the NWA and the super stars this band was the start of, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy it immensely. Well done, poignant and sometimes very touching, “Straight Outta Compton” is one of the biggest non “blockbuster” films of the year and has me tipping my hat off to all who were involved in the creation of the project. Audio and video are spectacular which leaves me giving the movie a recommended status.
Starring: O'Shea Jackson Jr., Paul Giamatti, Corey Hawkins, R. Marcus Taylor
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Written by: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 147 minutes / 167 minutes (Director's Cut)
Blu-ray Release Date: January 19th 2016
Buy Straight Outta Compton On Blu-ray at Amazon
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