Straight Outta Compton is maybe the best biopic I have ever seen. Not only does this film document the musician’s personal lives, the inspiration and the recording of their music, but also it’s impact on the music industry and American society.
Telling the story of N.W.A, who have been called by some the world’s most dangerous group, may be the reason why this film incorporates the conventions of an action film more that other films about musicians. This film compares more to City of God than Walk the Line as it features multiple police chases, riots, raids, drug deals and frequent violence. Furthermore it doesn’t feature a voiceover or tell the story from any one person’s perspective. But rather the story of a music scene with one group at the centre of it. The film also strongly centres on police violence and racial discrimination, and how N.W.A’s music gave voice to those who may not of otherwise been heard. It also documents their struggle against the media and government’s estrangement and opposition to their artform.
The film’s story starts from when all of the group’s members were teenages and on the verge of joining hip hop’s most influential group. This film goes on to detail what each member of the group, and their manager Jerry Heller, contributed to their success and later to their volatile implosion.
This film depicts the politics inside the group and how friendship turned into a brutal hostility. I didn’t expect the film to go into as much detail of the member’s solo careers as it did, as we witnessed the inner workings of Death Row records, Ice Cube’s struggle with priority records and the multiple diss tracks that were exchanged. I think this film was well paced as it spent a majority of it’s time telling the group’s story rather than any one person’s . Therefore you definitely knew what the focus of the film was with little bits of exposition to constantly drive forward the narrative.
The biggest criticism I have of the film is the lack of focus on MC Ren’s character who wasn’t featured as prominently as other group members. However each of the other character’s were clearly defined; Eazy E the corrupted entrepreneur, Ice Cube the unappreciated poet, Dr Dre the visionary and DJ Yella the comedian. Every character came across as three dimensional with their best side and ugliest side on show, which can strongly be attributed to the talent of the actors.
The music used was a nice mix of N.W.A’s classics which were performed in the narrative by the group, Dr Dre’s soundtrack album which was used as non diegetic music to score the film and classic funk tunes that would be sampled in hip hop.
I read that the film was pretty true to life which makes the film even better viewing. However as with most hollywood biopics it’s apparently not 100% accurate as real life, and entertainment will inevitably clash in the retelling of most stories. Furthermore the original version of the film was over three hours long which was cut to under 2 and a half hours, which may explain why some parts of the story weren’t depicted in the film.
However I think this film was highly engaging and really well made, 2 hours and a half flew by and I am left with very little complaints.