Friday, August 21, 2015

Straight Outta Compton Review

Straight Outta Compton Review
For as many great true stories there are out there, it seems strange to me that there are so few great biopics out there. Much like the sports movie, it seems the biopic movie is strangled by the cliches that have become familiar in the genre. Every musical biopic seems to take the same form. A person (or group of people) start with nothing, they have a dream to make it big in music, they are constantly told they'll never make it, they get a chance and seize it, for awhile its good, there is some turmoil, something gets in the way of the success, but then the group or person gets back on the straighten arrow right before the credits roll. I have just described every musical biopic known to man, they all follow that template religiously. 

"Straight Outta Compton" is very a musical biopic movie. We quickly meet Eric "Eazy E" Wright (Jason Mitchell), Andre "Dr. Dre" Young (Corey Hawkins) and O'Shea "Ice Cube" Jackson (O'Shea Jackson Jr.). These disgruntled young men are quickly created out of the environment they were born into, and they have plenty to say about Compton and the world they grew up in and they create music about their experience. They are constantly told that they will never make it, but they recruit MC Ren (Aldris Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and are quickly signed to label with Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). They have lots of success, but they get into political trouble after the controversial single "Fuck Da Police" is released, they experience inner turmoil, but they make up right before the credits roll. By design, "Straight Outta Compton" is just like every other musical biopic ever made.

But here's the thing, "Straight Outta Compton" is actually swiftly entertaining. The actors throw themselves at their roles and give it there all. The backdrop of 1980's and 1990's southern California is exquisitely believable and the script by Jonathon Herman and Andrea Berloff is slick and crisp in a way that is almost revitalizing. "Straight Outta Compton" may follow the same cliches as most biopics, but it dares to entertain, tries to be more  than the average movie. 

One thing that stands out is the performance of O'Shea Jackson Jr. Yes, Ice Cube's very own son plays his father. He's a splitting image of his own father, so why not? This isn't some stunt casting though, as O'Shea becomes his father in every fashion. When O'Shea Jackson Jr raps, I couldn't tell if it was actually him rapping or if they dubbed over him with his father's raps. I think there is a bright future for O'Shea Jackson Jr, if acting is what he wants to do. I was also very impressed by the work done by Mitchell and Hawkins, who delivered excellent work as Eazy E and Dr. Dre. The movie kind of takes the form of being Eazy's story, and Mitchell tells the story eloquently. Paul Giamatti could do roles like this in his sleep, and he delivers once again to an already impressive resume.

"Straight Outta Compton" took the usual musical biopic and put it on steroids. The movie that follows is highly entertaining and fresh from start to finish. Anybody who was a fan of N.W.A., both past and present, will enjoy this movie thoroughly. It's a movie that may play by the rules, but at the same time shatters the rules in many ways. That is tough to do, and director F. Gary Gray deserves credit for how he utilizes the norms of this genre and how he chose to bend them.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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