Movie review: ‘Straight Outta Compton’

Erik Petrovich

Straight Outta Compton” is a biopic that forces the audience to witness the strength of street knowledge and the decadent depravity of the burgeoning gangster rap scene of the early ’90s.

With a little more time and a longer script, Director F. Gary Gray may have been able to flesh out the rising world of gangster rap with more than just name drops and references. Considering the depth of the film’s focus, “Straight Outta Compton” told the story of the more famous members of N.W.A.’s rise to fame with such passion that I found it hard to stand up when the credits began to roll.

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The movie opens with a drug deal gone awry, hurling the viewer from the first frame into a very real world of brutality and struggle. Throughout the film, the police are depicted as brutal and unrelenting, which to some may be offensive. However, this is the point of the movie — to show how the members of the group saw authority and reacted to their road blocks, in the form of broader society accepting “street music.”

It is eye-opening to those who have never faced prejudice like this, and it was meant to be released in 2015 amidst the growing public knowledge of institutional racism and discrimination.

What I appreciate most about the movie is the love for the source material so obviously held by everyone involved in the movie. Jason Mitchell’s portrayal of Eazy-E’s downward spiral and eventual demise was not easy to watch. His unsettling performance of the rapper’s final moments showed the total destruction of a man’s life and the helplessness of a dying rebel in his hospital bed with no one there to console him as he screamed alone with the door shut. This is not to say that the other actors in the movie gave sub-par performances, but I would be very surprised if Mitchell was not specifically recognized for his performance of the troubled rapper.

The movie only has two issues in my eyes. Dr. Dre’s assault on Dee Barnes, a hip-hop journalist, was not mentioned at all in the film. In fact, the film skipped over much of Dre’s violent side against women. The assault was originally in the script for the biopic, according to Rolling Stone, but was taken out because Gray wanted to focus more on N.W.A. To that I ask, then, why wasn’t there more focus on the other members of the group? The in-depth look at the lives of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E were well done, but the film could have been extended for another half hour to talk more about MC Ren, DJ Yella and the other members of the original group. If it was indeed Gray’s intention to focus more on N.W.A. as a whole over the individual members, then this would have been the logical solution. As of now, the film has a minor revisionist problem.

But the film was not about N.W.A. in the end. It was a history of the three most prominent members of the group, and an analysis of the darker side of success from silence. “Straight Outta Compton” shows the growth of gangster rap through the eyes of those who pioneered the genre. It will leave you with a more intimate understanding of the hardships faced by those who suddenly found that they could express themselves in a society that constantly beat them down.

Collegian Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @EAPetrovich.