katrinaolson.ca - KO Review of Straight Outta Compton

Posted on Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 06:00 PM

Movie: Straight Outta Compton

KO Review: Straight Outta Compton

Review by Katrina Olson-Mottahed x CalgaryMovies.com

It was no surprise that the opening night of Straight Outta Compton was sold out for both evening showtimes. The film was produced by N.W.A. music moguls Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.

The film opens with Eazy-E (played by Jason Mitchell) at his cousins crack house getting busted and escaping arrest in Compton. Then gradually we are introduced to the less gangster members of N.W.A.; Ice Cube (played by the original Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (played by Corey Hawkins), Dj Yella (played by Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (played by Aldis Hodge).

Directed by filmmaker F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton follows the emergence of the hip-hop group N.W.A. in Compton, California in the mid 1980’s. As a biographic drama this film is pretty Hollywood. It’s entertaining to see these guys starting from the bottom with next to nothing and rising to be the massive successes in music and business like they are today. However, there was a lot of clichés and glamorizing the gangster life, which I guess was to be expected. N.W.A.’s manager Jerry Heller was played by Paul Giamatti (and I have not been able to look at that guy the same since San Andreas -if you have not seen it-don’t). I wish their manager would have also been cast by an unknown actor instead of someone who plays this role in every second Hollywood movie out in the box office). It made Straight Outta Compton feel like the tv series Empire to me.

If life imitates art, then the film is a way to propel the power that artists hold to change the political atmosphere in America. N.W.A.’s song “Fuck Tha Police” was the theme song and chanted through the rioting streets of South Central Los Angeles in April 1992. Straight Outta Compton showed some actual footage of the Rodney King beating and subsequently the not-guilty verdict of the LAPD officers responsible, that incited the riots.

The problem with using actually footage of news reports and headlines in Straight Outta Compton is it allows N.W.A. to rewrite their history to a new generation who now sees this biographical drama as reality. A reality where hip-hop was dominated by N.W.A., Snoop Dogg and Tupac. I mean, yes, that is “a” truth, but how about all the female emcees out in Compton grinding it out along-side these boys? It wasn’t just all baby-mamas and groupies. What about Yo Yo (Yolanda Whittaker) who was Ice Cube’s protege and the most sophisticated female hip-hop artist during this time. Yo Yo was featured on Ice Cube‘s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted album in 1990, before she released her own album in 1991, Make Way for the Motherlode. Even though Yo Yo was alongside the Boyz n the Hood, where is she now in the history of the minds of this millenial generation watching the film?

If mainstream media of police brutality on African American people in America sells out on an opening night, is this the resurgence of male dominated gangster rap? A marketing ploy music producer by Dr. Dre? (Don’t think I didn’t notice all the pan in extreme close-ups on the headphones from the start of the film). The album’s soundtrack is already climbing up the billboard charts and features Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre’s newest star. I expect both the film and soundtrack will be huge mainstream successes.

Check out a previous post I wrote on Uprising: Hip Hop and the LA Riots (Ford, 2012 USA) >
For more reading check out The Atlantic’s article: Straight Outta Comptonand the Social Burdens of Hip-Hop >

All Photos Courtesy of Universal Pictures


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.