N.W.A.’ s biopic is one for the ages

Back to Article
Back to Article

N.W.A.’ s biopic is one for the ages

Chance Williams, Staff Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins & Paul Giamatti

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Release date: August 14, 2015

Run time: 150 minutes

Rated: R

“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”

If you’re a fan of N.W.A then you know those words are the opening line to their smash hit song, “Straight Outta Compton.” It’s the same line that opens the film under the same name.

N.W.A., an acronym for “Niggaz With Attitude,” came on the scene in 1988 and changed the hip-hop genre forever. Their music became a sub-genre known as “gangsta rap” by the media but in the film the band preferred the term “reality rap.” They give it to you up front and unapologetic in the film.

The film had a modest $28 million-dollar budget and stars a handful of unknown actors who tell the story of Eric “Eazy E” Wright, Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson and Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby, and their rise to super-stardom in the music scene.

Director F Gary Gray does an outstanding job of following the lives of these young men who come from the ghetto and build an iconic album that reached the masses all across America. Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is sensational, taking us through the streets of Compton where 64’ Impalas and beautiful women reign supreme, into the studio where the group makes the magic, through hotel rooms on the road where no sin is left untouched, and into the private lives of Dre, Cube and Eazy.

Violence, sexual objectification of women and strong language are all part of the film, mirroring their break out album. Like most band films, there are a lot of groupies on the road and plenty of alcohol to drink and drugs to do. The difference in this film is that it’s splashed with thug life.

Ice Cube in the film is played by his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who is masterful as his father in an award-worthy performance), and speaks a line that rings true about the genre of their music: “Our art is a reflection of our reality.”

Of course with this type of subject matter and the group’s history, controversy follows. Several women have came forward taking issue that the film didn’t depict the violence against them from producer Dr. Dre.

There is no doubt the women have a bone to pick with Dr. Dre. Would it make the film edgier and more controversial? Of course it would, but the film is about the group as a whole and runs 150 minutes as is, in the filmmaker’s defense. The film was packed with history of the group, but if you are a devoted fan, you will notice some of the omissions and liberties the filmmakers had to take to make the film work.

Despite controversy the film still opened to a whopping $60.2-million-dollar weekend, the fifth-highest August opening ever and the largest R rated opening of August as well. As Ice Cube and Eazy E say in the film, “all publicity is good publicity,” and that rings true here.

Along with documenting the group’s rags to riches tales the film also touches on social issues such as profiling, police brutality and freedom of speech. The Rodney King assault, the verdict that acquitted four Los Angeles police officers, and the riots that followed was present in the film and played a role on the mentality of the artists. It also serves an interesting reminder that the more things change the more they stay the same. That’s one of the reasons the film connects with audiences, telling a story that Americans are still living through today.

The filmmakers do their job and do it well here, they extract feeling from you and have you rooting for the protagonists regardless of the life they are living. If you were a fan of the group, it rushes in emotions of nostalgia and brings you back to 1988 when it all started. One of the best films of the year so far and it wouldn’t be surprising that the film will be highlighted during award season.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email