Movie poster for Straight Outta Compton, with Dr. Dre, Mc Ren, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and Ice Cube. Photo courtesy of Google Images.
Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy once said that rap is “the TV station that black people never had.” As prominent as Public Enemy was, they can’t hold a candle to the cultural influence and popularity of NWA. Straight Outta Compton is the bioptic film that tells the story of the group’s rise and fall. This film follows the group’s five original members: Ice Cube (played by his son O’Shea Jackson, Jr), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr). The film has surprised many critics with its emotional depth and complexity. It is a very well acted movie and the actors have incredible chemistry between them. It was also confidently directed by F. Gary Gray, and veteran cinematographer Matthew Libatique helped manage the film’s two and a half-hour runtime by keeping things visually fresh.
While it is a biopic, Straight Outta Compton, like its titular album, is a very political film. Its portrayal of police, media, and even the federal government is unapologetic. The film’s most prominent scene highlights this when Ice Cube states in a press conference: “Our art is a reflection of our reality.” The same could and should be said about Straight Outta Compton. The film forces you to acknowledge the correlation between the events twenty-five years ago in Los Angeles and the events of the past two years in Ferguson and Baltimore. The film is unrepentant in its degrading portrayal of women groupies; during some parts, the film takes on the form of a N.W.A. music video. While some audience members may find it hard to get past its amorality, I find it hard to find faults in the film for depicting events as they really happened. There is no doubt that Eazy-E contracted AIDS from unprotected sex at such parties depicted in the movie.
Though it is very early in the Oscar season, I believe Straight Outta Compton is a serious award contender, specifically for Best Picture, Acting (for Mitchell and Jackson Jr), and Directing (Gray). The Academy has received harsh criticisms in the last decade for its exclusion of acknowledging racially diverse films, so Straight Outta Compton may very well end up being the Academy’s source of redemption and a true sign of progress—or just another example of a great film snubbed because of its content.
Categories: Arts and Entertainment