Straight Outta Compton

 

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F. Gary Gray's biog of the hip-hop supergroup NWA appropriates the right attitude

 

Straight Outta Compton

Street artist: Corey Hawkins

  

Most so-called musical biographies are about the music. F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton is about the words – and the anger that ignited them. While Frankie Valli and his Four Seasons were involved in crime in their earlier years (cf. Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys), it was the crime itself that informed the incendiary lyrics of the hip-hop supergroup NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitudes). NWA were, indeed, straight out of Compton, Los Angeles, a predominantly black area famous for its gang warfare and subsequent intimidation by the police. In a neighbourhood on the edge, racial and tribal tensions were the norm and NWA expressed this in their ‘songs,’ which, while reflecting the lifestyle, also incited more antipathy towards the establishment.

 

With the group’s inside rivalries, clashes with police, disputes with their managers and more viscerally dramatic episodes, the film’s narrative makes for constantly gripping stuff. F. Gary Gray, perhaps best known for his films The Italian Job and Law Abiding Citizen, directs with energy and style and builds the tension nicely, injecting a raw authenticity into the proceedings. Anything could blow at any minute… Best of all, though, are the performances, with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E convincingly realised by, respectively, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell. Jackson Jr, in particular, is a dead ringer for ‘Cube,’ but then he is Ice Cube’s son. Oh, and the dialogue is about as real as it gets, artfully complementing the barbed precision of the lyrics.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: O'Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr, Marlon Yates Jr, Alexandra Shipp, Carra Paterson, Corey Reynolds.

 

Dir F. Gary Gray, Pro Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Scott Bernstein and Dr Dre, Screenplay Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, from a story by S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff, Ph Matthew Libatique, Pro Des Shane Valentino, Ed Billy Fox and Michael Tronick, Music Joseph Trapanese, Costumes Kelli Jones.

 

Legendary Pictures/New Line Cinema/Cube Vision/Crucial Films/Broken Chair Flickz-Universal Pictures. 146 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 28 August 2017. Cert. 15.