Director, Gary F. Gray’s attempt to retell the story of hip-hop’s arguably most group, Straight Outta Compton, is due to hit cinemas today and is expected to gross as much as $40million in its opening weekend. Whether or not the movie will meet up to expectations depends to an extent on what the critics are saying, so we decided to take a look around and sample exactly what they are saying.
A conventional music-world biopic in outline, but intensely human and personal in its characterizations and attention to detail, director F. Gary Gray’s movie is a feast for hip-hop connoisseurs and novices alike as it charts the West Coast rap superstars’ meteoric rise, fractious in-fighting and discovery that the music business can be as savage as the inner-city streets. A very smart piece of counter-programming in a summer dominated by lily-white tentpole movies, Universal’s Aug. 14 opener should keep the studio clocking much dollars at the late-summer box office.
Produced by former N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre (among others) and directed by F. Gary Gray, who started his career with an Ice Cube video and went on to direct his comic outing Friday, the result is a self-portrait that predictably softens the edges of careers that generated even more controversy than we see here. But if the movie pushes most of the ugliest behavior off onto side players (like the notorious Suge Knight, played by R. Marcus Taylor), it does for the most part fulfill its mission, breathing life into the origin story of a group whose influence is still being felt.
Director F. Gary Gray treats “Straight Outta Compton” as an epic-sized take on approaching the American Dream from an askew angle that draws straight outta Compton and straight into capitalism. As with his classic caper film, “Set It Off”, Gray briskly handles the film’s 147-minute running time. Veteran cinematographer Matthew Libatique assists by keeping things visually interesting. While there are a few minor missteps (we could do without some of the rather suspect scenes of groupie gratification, for example) overall this is a masterful piece of work. It’s funny, angry, sad and inspirational. I admired its willingness to be as unrelenting as N.W.A.’s album, and I had a great time mouthing the words to every song on the soundtrack.
If you’re not a fan of N.W.A, you’ll still find much to enjoy here. If you are a fan, you’ll love this movie as much as I did.
By dressing up the story of incendiary rap group N.W.A. in the comfortable clothes of the biopic, F. Gary Gray gives the rebels from Compton a seat in movie history right alongside Johnny Cash, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, and every other musician deemed important enough for the biopic treatment. The fact that our heroes are young black men in baggy clothes gives Straight Outta Compton significant power; watching N.W.A. channel their frustration with the police into song, and seeing those songs celebrated by a studio film, is probably Hollywood’s most significant response yet to the Black Lives Matter movement. (The fact that it’s still essentially the only one is a troubling issue for another time.)
The reviews generally seemed to be positive, so I expect Straight Outta Compton to have a good weekend.
Interestingly though, I checked around and none of the major Nigerian cinemas seem to have the movie slated for anytime soon. If any of them was going to be showing it, it would be on their websites by now, but none do, so… This means we might not be getting to see the movie in this part of the world, which really is a shame, seeing how many N.W.A fans we have here.
What did you think of the reviews? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.