I know very little about this story. All I know is that Ice Cube has been making family films lately and “The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre is incredible. So going in, I knew very little about the real story of the NWA so I was hoping that it was a solid film for non-fans as well.
In Compton, CA, several rappers and DJs come together to form the supergroup NWA. We’ve got Ice Cube (played by the real Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge). These five guys come together under the management of Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) and rise to fame, which tests their friendship and loyalty to each other.
As I didn’t know much about this movie, it was incredibly easy to follow, even though it rocketed through years of history. With Ice Cube and Dre producing the movie (and MC Ren and DJ Yella serving as consultants), you have to think this is mostly an accurate portrayal.
In terms of acting, these young guys had some incredible moments. The big question mark for me was Ice Cube’s son actually playing him in the movie. Could he act? Yes he can! The big three all knocked it out of the park. Dre was the most under the radar character but I think that might come with his personality, but all three characters gave it their all and I was really impressed. DJ Yella and MC Ren were underused but I kind of get why. It’s a real story, they can’t invent drama to give these two something to do.
The soundtrack as expected was incredible and it was full of little nods to their big tracks and how they came together. We even get some fun little cameos of other big names that the NWA helped propel to fame during this time.
The first half of the movie was incredible. Fun moments, yet also some poignant (and unfortunately still relevant) moments. However, their rise to fame is achieved by the middle point of the movie and then it kicks into high drama, with them struggling to maintain friendships and fighting over rights and money. This is difficult because it’s based on real events, so they can’t have changed the order of events, but the movie did suffer from some slow pacing in almost the entire second half. The fun and laughs were gone and it just got really intense and sometimes really slow. This is really my only criticism but when half the movie drags, it’s an issue.
Straight Outta Compton is a great story with some great young talent. The music is perfect and the stories behind the music will engage both fans and non-fans alike. While the first half is poignant, funny, and engaging, the second half of the movie suffers from pacing issues as it drags quite a bit. I’d still recommend seeing this film though, just to be educated on one of the most important hip hop groups in history.