‘Straight Outta Compton’ is a musical epic

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Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Directed by Gary Gray

If the Academy submits ten nominees for Best Picture next year, you can almost bet there’ll be a spot for the monumental “Straight Outta Compton.” In 1986, Ice Cube (played by Cube’s real-life son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell)—plus, for shorter periods, DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge)—all natives of Compton, California, created the legendary gangster rap group N.W.A. The rest is hiztory.

Straight Outta Compton

Stories of gang violence, police brutality, and familial drama litter their lyrics, but their art is just a reflection of their life. The inception of “F*ck the Police” followed an unfair altercation involving bully racist cops—a scene that shows how far America has come in just thirty years…but that also reminds us how much farther we have to go. The stories presented in “Straight Outta Compton” are just a small portion of what N.W.A. went through to reach fame. It’s comprehensive without being cumbersome. The script, written by a group of four relative newcomers, is the best biopic script I’ve heard in a while. The story isn’t hindered by a devotion to chronology. “Straight Outta Compton” has the feel of a fictional narrative, with the added drama of being a true story. But despite its lax approach, “Compton” remains true to its subject matter. Producers/advisers Ice Cube and Dr. Dre made sure the story, for the most part, checks out. Is 140 minutes a long time to watch any movie? Yes. It certainly gets tiring. But a movie this timely and important is worth your investment of time.

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And the winner of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor should be this gnarly group of N.W.A. portrayers. Can they split it three ways? Jackson, Hawkins, and Mitchell worked so hard to get into character, they actually re-recorded the entire hour-long “Straight Outta Compton” album to tune their rapping skills. The rapping you hear on screen is a masterfully edited mix of the original rappers and their impersonators. After only a couple of small roles before this, Jason Mitchell has a revelatory performance as N.W.A.’s troubled leader, Eazy-E. In looks, he’s a dead-ringer. But then, so is everyone else. Jackson has known his character for his entire life. You could say he was born to play the role. There’s no way he was going to mess this one up…he might have been grounded. Just call him Ice Cub. Jokes aside, Jackson gives a performance that made his daddy proud. And that’s enough for me. As manager Jerry Heller, Paul Giamatti wraps up a busy year (with “San Andreas” and “Love and Mercy” just months before) with his best performance of 2015. But he also solidified himself as the whitest actor in Hollywood. Watching him sing along at an N.W.A. concert proves that.

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“Straight Outta Compton” is the movie of the moment. It’s charged with a sense of urgency and relevance that few movies set in the late ‘80s have. It’s a crime not to see it for yourself. “Straight Outta Compton” has got somethin’ to say.

8/10

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