Straight Outta Compton is a collection of scenes. Some of them are electric and combine for quite a cinematic statement. Some of them are not really necessary, getting in the way of true cohesion. And surely others are left out, for good or for ill.
All the musical moments capture the power and immediacy of N.W.A. at their best. The recording session of “Boyz-n-the-Hood” presents Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E emerging as a hip-hop star with the most unlikely flow of all time. The racial consciousness is assured, especially when the group is hassled by police, led by a black officer, outside the studio during recording of Straight Outta Compton. (As the film would have it, this is the direct inspiration for one of their most iconic songs.) Any scene that focuses on Ice Cube is a winner, with O’Shea Jackson, Jr. nailing his father’s poetry and business savvy.
The moments with Dr. Dre beyond N.W.A. are a little extraneous, which is no knock on Corey Hawkins. It is just that his chemistry is strongest with his original team. His collaborations with Snoop Dogg and others could really stand to be their own movie.
With Ice Cube and Dr. Dre serving as producers, it is hard to shake the sense that Straight Outta Compton portrays N.W.A. as a little too saintly. They hardly come off as perfect, with Dre’s troubles with the women in his life clearly present, for example (though what has reportedly been excised makes it clear that a lot worse has been left out). The theme of insisting upon speaking a needed message when the public does not want to hear it is invaluable, but it is tempered by the knowledge of how much that message is being controlled.
Jeff Malone is a voracious entertainment consumer and entertainment creator. He currently resides in New York City, where he received his Master’s in Media Studies at The New School. In addition to his pieces on TMRzoo.com and StarPulse.com, you can check out his blog (jmunney.wordpress.com), where he provides regular coverage of Community and Saturday Night Live, as well as other television, film, music, and the rest of pop culture.