It’s kinda weird for me to talk about music on a movie blog; I’ve already covered it with the Beatles’ flick that somehow made the list, and now it seems we’re headed in a completely different direction. The name Straight Outta Compton should be familiar to most people who grew up in the late 80’s/early 90’s as the progenitor of the gangster rap genre of music, a genre of hip-hop/rap that I remained largely incognizant of during my own upbringing thanks mainly due to me growing up in white suburbia; I was thus not privy to the lifestyle that the group members of NWA tried to bring to the forefront of the music world with their debut album. Going into this film, though, I was actually looking forward to having my eyes opened a bit in that regard, something I welcomed as another necessary empathetic experience. So, when the credits finally rolled on Straight Outta Compton the film, and I tried to collect my thoughts on what the film had accomplished, and if it had indeed given me a look into the life that these men wanted those outside Compton, California to experience for themselves, I was surprised to find myself largely ambivalent to the two-and-a-half-plus hour narrative. I’m not sure if the goal of this film was indeed to encapsulate what made NWA’s breakout album such a success and cultural milestone, but for the film to merely present the events as they happened, in a very typical Hollywood fashion, seemed to be underselling what NWA really accomplished.
The film, as I stated in the opener, documents the coming together of the major personalities that would form NWA, from their quote-unquote humble beginnings to how they met the right people who got them in the position to blow the world open with their first record, and all the excess and infighting and drama that would naturally follow such a breakthrough. Primarily, we follow Dr. Dre, Ice Cube (played by Ice Cube’s real-life son), and Eazy-E, who has probably the best and most dramatic arc in the film, but there are plenty of other players who have their roles in the spotlight of this story (I can understand the real-life Jerry Heller’s being upset about his depiction in this film, and the conspicuous silence from Suge Knight about his own depiction suggests to me that it might be more correct than the man may want to care to admit). Still, for being over two and a half hours long, and for covering as much as it covers, I was a little miffed to find that the film, cultural influences aside, was pretty much a standard biopic when you get down to the underworkings. It might be culturally relevant for people to go and see this, but to make the argument that people should see it because it’s an outstanding film or unlike anything else out there are, to be a little too frank, incorrect arguments to make. I don’t have a copy of the new edition of the Book, so I can’t say with certainty why they decided to add Straight Outta Compton, but I’m one to definitely wonder if this one is going to stick around even through the next successive edition of the list.
I can’t help but feel let down by this film. It was good; it was fine, but nowhere was this outstanding, and definitely not a must see. For what the film is worth, though, it’s not poor in almost any regard; the players were very good, the production itself knew what it was doing, etc etc. Really, I think the thing that’s causing me the most ire about a film like this is that it’s leaving me with nothing to say about it, and that to me should definitely not mean this film should make the list. I’m not sad or upset that I was forced to watch it, but neither would I have watched it unless I had basically been forced to. At this point, I’m just hoping I didn’t knock all the good stuff from this year’s additions off first, or I’m in for an underwhelming finish in the next month or so.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10