Straight Outta Compton (2015)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Straight Outta Compton</strong> (2015)

(On Blu-ray, January 2016) After watching Straight Outta Compton, I wish my knowledge of Hip-Hop history was just better enough to let me enjoy the film as more than a detached biography. While the very broad strokes of N.W.A.’s story are familiar, I’m sure I would have gotten a lot more out of Straight Outta Compton had I actively enjoyed the music at the time. Moments such as when N.W.A. first hear Ice Cube’s diss-track “No Vaseline” play well on-screen as dramatic sequences, but they work even better as validations of what viewers already knew. Oh well; at least I can testify about the film’s effectiveness at presenting N.W.A.’s rise, success and tragic end, along with tendrils of sub-stories into other West Coast Rap characters, not the least being Suge Knight’s demonic presence. Competently directed by F. Gary Gray (who finally seems back on track after a few disappointing films), Straight Outta Compton can depend on two fantastic performances: Jason Mitchell as the doomed Easy E, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. channelling his own father as Ice Cube. (There’s something both awesome and endearing about Ice Cube’s character watching his kids play in the yard when we know that one of them is now Ice Cube himself.) Some sequences are terrific (not the least being the band defying the police’s specific orders not to feature a controversial song, then being arrested for it) and the film feels richer the more you’re familiar with the source material. Given Straight Outta Compton’s unexpected commercial success, a series of related pictures about Hip-Hop history is nearly assured and I’m fine with that. Just let me catch up on a few years’ worth of rap music and I’ll be good to go.

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