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Straight Outta Compton
BLU-RAY disk
02.23.2016 By: Jason Adams
Straight Outta Compton order download
Director:
F. Gary Gray

Actors:
Jason Mitchell
O'Shea Jackson
Jr.
Corey Hawkins

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The rise and fall of rap group N.W.A., whose success in the 1980s gave voice to a minority culture repressed by authority, but also led to their own downfall.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?

The story of N.W.A., with its tense setting and trailblazing players, is perfect for cinematic treatment—full of societal drama, boisterous personalities, and great music—and STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON makes the most out of all of it.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect is bringing such well-known and influential individuals to life, but the film handles this in a smart way, casting talented, yet relative unknowns, including Ice Cube's own son O'Shea Jackson. There's not a weak link in the bunch and the cast has amazing chemistry together, suggesting years of history and experience right off the bat. Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins in particular give standout performances as Eazy E and Dr. Dre, carrying some of the film's heaviest moments. It's no shocker that both are moving on to bigger projects after this (including appearing in KONG: SKULL ISLAND together). Paul Giamatti, the movies most recognizable actor, also gives a strong showing as Jerry Heller, the group's longtime manager.

Amazingly, and sadly, the events of STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON feel just as relevant today as they did three decades ago. Director F. Gary Gray ensures the film feels authentic, not holding back on the violence, racism, fear, anger, and overall chaos that gripped Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s. It's not the typical stuff you've seen or expect from similar movies either. Watching members of the Crenshaw Mafia pull over a school bus to threaten the kids in to getting an education is a powerful moment. And seeing Eazy and Dre bring Boyz in the Hood to life for the first time, giving popular voice to their struggling reality, is equally effective.

Even with all this going for it, part of STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is a missed opportunity in how quickly it settles in to a generic biopic. The second half feels rushed, moving through the motions to hit the expected story beats. With the backdrop of the Rodney King beatings and subsequent L.A. riots, there was potential here for the film to go below the surface level and become something more, but the riots sadly get a quick montage set to emotional music and are forgotten. Similarly, the show at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where the group was arrested for performing "F*ck Tha Police," should've been a turning point for STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON to comment on racial prejudice and abuse of power, but instead that's all completely glossed over with no consequences for the group's actions. It's a disappointing aspect in a film that otherwise works well.

THE EXTRAS

The Blu Ray contains both the Theatrical and Unrated Director's Cut on Blu Ray, as well as DVD and Digital Copy. The unrated version of the film adds an extra 20 minutes and does give more context to what's going on outside of the group. It doesn't completely fix the issues I had, but it's definitely the version I suggest watching.

Commentary by director F. Gary Gray: Gray's personal connection to this story and characters is obvious and there's an emotional element to this commentary that's rare and goes beyond just being informative. The director is able to comment on just about everything, both on the film and in real life, and while I would've loved to hear him bounce off Ice Cube or other surviving members of the group, this is still a track well worth recommending.

Deleted Scenes (5:39): Most of these six deleted scenes are short (~30 seconds) and don't offer much of substance. You're fine just sticking to the director's cut.

Deleted Song (1:28): A musical performance of "Compton's N the House" that was cut from the film.

N.W.A.: The Origins (3:50): Real members of N.W.A. join the cast and crew to give a brief history of the group, which is sort of irrelevant if you've watched the movie. Skip it.

Impact (1:35): Another frustratingly short featurette, this one focusing specifically on the lasting impression N.W.A. left on culture.

Director's Journey (3:22): There's so much to be said about the L.A. Riots, especially in the context of the movie. This three minute piece barely scratches the surface.

The Streets: Filming in Compton (6:03): Easily the most interesting special feature, this shows how the production recreated the 1980s on location in Compton.

N.W.A Performs in Detroit (4:54): Ice Cube and Co. talk about performing "F*ck tha Police" in Detroit and what it was like recreating that famous concert for the film.

Becoming N.W.A. (8:30): A recap of the casting process and how the filmmakers found the right actors for each crucial role.

FINAL DIAGNOSIS

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is a solid biopic featuring a strong cast and an important story worth telling. There was opportunity here to offer something other than a traditional biopic, but the film does fine as a piece of entertainment. (The director's cut included here definitely helps.) The Blu-Ray has a great commentary, but is missing any other special features of substance.

Extra Tidbit: Eazy-E's son, Lil Eazy-E, auditioned to play his father, but didn't get the part.

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