By Cristian Cortes
N.W.A.’s biopic Straight Outta Compton, released August 14, exceeded its first weekend projections, raking in $60 million and showing Hollywood Hip-Hop films could be lucrative. Despite the movie’s the financial success, one question still remains: is justice served to members of N.W.A. and its legacy? From the opening scene, where Eazy E (Jason Mitchell) is inside an LAPD dope-house raid, to the group’s early recording sessions, the film showcases “The World’s First Gangsta Rap Group” to viewers as five, young and talented men from a gritty part of Los Angeles ready to voice their story.
While Mitchell steals the show in his portrayal of the late Eazy E, his cast mates Corey Hawkins and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. – portraying Dr. Dre and Ice Cube respectively – both elevate the film with their chemistry.
Jackson’s performance is especially impressive. Cube’s kid portrays him in the most important chapter of his life, tracking the journey from group member to solo artist.
As the film follows the group’s quick rise to fame, it also shows the group drawing influence from the Rodney King beatings and the subsequent riots, including the role of the groups most controversial single “F**k tha Police”, a song that speaks to issues still relevant today.
At the climax of the film, during a concert in Detroit, the group receives a letter from the F.B.I. telling them to “… discontinue the performance of the song ‘F**k Tha Police … .’” Feeling the letter to be a violation of free speech, N.W.A. decides to perform the song anyway, which leads to the group’s arrest, while a riot breaks out the crowd. Towards the final act, the movie starts leaning towards more of a VH1 Behind the Music type of feeling by adding cameos that don’t really move the story forward (sorry Snoop and Pac). Plus certain characters resolve their issues too quickly to be believable. The death of Eazy E is handled very delicately, though Dre’s departure, Deathrow Records is epic.
As the credits roll we see a montage from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre in present day discussing the artists they have influenced, including Eminem, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar.
In the process of rewriting N.W.A’s story for a general audience the film overlooks issues the group was dealing with at the time. Specifically, the film completely glosses over Dre’s recorded history of violence against women, focusing instead on the more positive aspects of Dre’s career. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are executive producers of the film, and they have public images to protect. Overall, the film delivers to the die-hard N.W.A. fans and does a great job of introducing “The World’s Most Dangerous Group” to a younger generation of rap fans.
Straight Outta Compton is now in theaters nation wide.