Straight Outta Compton, the hip hop bio epic about seminal rap group NWA is taking the weekend box office by storm this weekend, unlike Sue Storm and her “black” brother, the Human Torch, failed to do a week ago with the utterly abysmal Fantastic 4 reboot.
Has NWA and their brand of uncensored street knowledge given us the best inciting incident of summer? The inciting incident being: The “murder” of Marvel movies dominating our vacations and turning us into single digit IQ parasites. I pray to the movie gods this is the case, I really do …
Straight Outta Compton, like NWA’s music, is gritty and raw. From the opening shot it is established that Compton is a post apocalyptic-esque suburb where people live in fear of not just the Nazi-like police force combing the streets, but death coming in the form of a bullet just by looking at a person the wrong way. Anxiety is everywhere.
For many, not just in Compton, inner-city life during the Reagan eighties was not all Care Bears and My Little Ponies. It was an urban Wild West. Eazy E, played by the wonderful Jason Mitchell, is the film’s protagonist (don’t be surprised if Mitchell is nominated for an Oscar). Eazy is our eyes and ears to the rise and fall of NWA. And Mitchell layers Eazy E’s character with a slick combination of insecure male bravado, timely sarcasm and unapologetic misogyny.
While watching Straight Outta Compton, I believed the character on screen was Eazy E and not a lame parody — a pitfall of many bio-epic pictures.
Ice Cube is played by Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson, who is a splitting image of his father, but when juxtaposed in scenes with the likes of Mitchell and acting heavyweight Paul Giamatti (playing NWA’s plotting, yet likable, band manager), it’s clear Jackson is the greenest of the actors and needs to put in some overtime at acting class.
But Jackson steps up his game tenfold in the film’s “live” performances of NWA’s greatest hits — delivering his father’s lines with the brash attitude and wrathful tone that made Ice Cube a household name in the early 90s. Jackson’s studio performance of “No Vaseline” is a highlight of the film, its frenetic energy reading off the charts.
And then there is the “doctor” himself, Dr. Dre, the self-made billionaire (let’s face it, BEATS are far from the best sounding headphones in the world) and the man who found the voice of my generation: Eminem.
Dr. Dre is the epitome of the 21st century American dream come true: Born into poverty in a once beautiful American suburb turned shit-hole, Dre loathes living in Compton and will do anything it takes to get out.
If any character is guilty of revisionist history in Straight Outta Compton, it is Dr. Dre. One could argue that Dre is the moral compass of the film, preaching from his soapbox about the way “niggas” should be acting, but absent from the film is a scenario that played out with Dr. Dre when he beat a female reporter within an inch of her life because he didn’t like her questions. But as the saying goes, he who has the gold, makes the rules, and Dre gets to rewrite his own history because, well, he’s the man with the largest sum of “gold” in this story.
Straight Outta Compton is well written, compellingly directed (credit to F. Gary Gray), and most importantly, 100 percent relevant to the times we are living in, unlike any Marvel movie. The subject matter, both political and cultural, covered in Straight Outta Compton’s analog age, sadly, still rings true in our digital age.
But back in the 80s, the United States government with its trickle-down economics and campy USA nostalgia, brainwashed the nation into thinking it was once again “Morning in America.” But NWA found a way to fight back, using the greatest freedom we as Americans have — no, not the right to carry guns — NWA didn’t shoot and kill their way to the top like a bunch of post WWII dopey Sicilians (The Godfather), they used their words and unique voices to give Ronald Reagan and the LAPD the big middle finger.
In our corporate culture world, where it’s required for us to be PC at all times, NWA serves as a pertinent reminder that those of us wanting to write our own history must fight the establishment using our brains, not our brawn.
This is how we distance ourselves from the most delusional marketing slogan ever: The American Dream.
And oh yeah, FUCK DA POLICE!
Pabst Blue Ribbon!
About Bryan Kish
Bryan Kish writes reviews and articles for NID Magazine.