'Straight Outta Compton' Is a Stunning Surprise

Movie Review - Jackie K Cooper
"Straight Outta Compton" (Universal Pictures)

Straight Outta Compton is a movie that on the surface is easy to dislike. It tells the story of three men who built their careers on rap, and what percentage of the moviegoing audience is totally into that genre of music. The film is bursting at the seams with profanity and obscenities, so continuous they become like a battering ram to the brain. And it is sharply and abruptly violent, giving the audience no time to brace for the onslaught.

BUT it is also a story so intense that you can not tear your eyes away from the screen and your ears hunger for each new word of dialogue. The acting is amazingly natural and realistic bringing the characters to living, breathing life. The director has such tight control over the film that it is paced perfectly and gives just enough information to totally satisfy. And finally the music is driven by the story and forces you to actually hear the lyrics rather than push them away because of squeamishness.

The movie focuses on three friends: Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson, Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell). They combine their musical talents to form NWA, and they use their music to express their fears and frustrations with life as it is lived in Compton, California. They start off performing locally but get wider exposure when they are noticed by talent representative Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti).

They enter a world of wealth and opportunity that is laced with corruption and danger. The higher up they go the farther down they have to fall. Each man reacts to this rise in popularity and plenty in his own specific way. It takes a wise man not to be blinded by the glare of celebrity that shines on them.

The entire cast of this movie from the smallest parts to the largest is right on target. It is hard to single out a few from the many talented performances offered. Still one can't fail to mention the vulnerability shown by Mitchell as he presents Eazy-E, the strength of character Jackson instills in Ice Cube, or the emotional turmoil shading Hawkins' concept of Dr. Dre. Add to that the shifting nature of Giamatti's Heller, and the frightening countenance of R. Marcos Taylor's Suge Knight. Any of these men could be nominated for awards next year.

F. Gary Gray also has to be lauded for his expert direction of this complex saga. There is a lot of story to tell concerning these men and Gary does it in two hours and twenty plus minutes. To his credit it never seems too long or too short in its presentation.

The film is rated R for profanity, nudity and violence.

This is a movie that should appeal to a limited audience, but it is presented with such skill and with such compassion and heart that it should draw in huge numbers of persons wanting to see a real work of art. These people will be of all ages, races and genders. Straight Outta Compton could have been a movie without merit if created by lesser hands. This time they got the story right and handed it to the right people to make it work. Straight Outta Compton is one of the best movies of the year.

I scored Straight Outta Compton a hip-hop 8 out of 10.

Jackie K Cooper