Straight Outta Compton is the music biopic of N.W.A, set in the late 80s and early 90s. It shows how Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Easy E came off the streets and brought them along as they introduced gangsta rap to the masses, made millions, broke up, got together again (sorta), got shafted by the music industry, etc.
The movie is good – sometimes extremely good. The acting is solid and I was not surprised to find out that Ice Cube’s son was playing Ice Cube himself since the actor had Cube down big time. The actor playing Easy E was also very good and had the most emotional range and distance to go (though I can’t say how good is impersonation was beyond the baseball cap and hair). The guy playing Dr. Dre… well.. he was fine. I think Dre’s part was the least interesting and that’s partially, I think, demonstrative of one of the film’s few faults.
This movie is produced by Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Easy’s E’s widow and sometimes it really feels like it. This is a somewhat warts-and-all depiction of their early life but, at the same time, they come off a little too well compared to the people surrounding them. For instance, would it be surprising to see Dre being almost saint-like while surrounded by the crooked Suge Knight, who wasn’t a producer on the movie (but is spending time in real life for being a crook)? My point is that the movie doesn’t mythologize them, but it also might be taking it easy on them as well.
But, ignoring that feeling, this is a very, very good film. It’s well acted and very well directed with some occasionally very solid and creative camera work. The music – and the use of that music – is great, regardless of whether you like this kind of rap music or not.
But happily you don’t have to be a 90s gangsta rap fan to appreciate how good this movie really is. It is a music biopic but it doesn’t fall into all the usual traps of that genre. It has some of its DNA but it achieves better things.