Monday, August 17, 2015

Straight Outta Compton Review

I'm not going to lie, I wasn't excited for this movie. Yes, I know the reviews were very positive and many people who loved it said that you don't need to be a fan of the rap genre or the group N.W.A to enjoy this movie. But I didn't believe them. The big reason for this was that the only people making those comments were people who actually do love the genre. I just logically felt that I couldn't trust that. It's like me making a claim that you don't have to be a fan of superhero movies to enjoy the movie Ant-Man. How can I make that claim when I myself love superhero movies? I'm not the best judge on that. If you don't like superhero movies, go ask someone who also doesn't like superhero movies and see what they say. Thus was the case here for me. For the most part, I hate rap music and I'm really upset that N.W.A popularized the genre to the point where it's still super popular today. I could go into more detail as to why this is the case for me, and I actually did when I first started this review before I decided that it's best for me to be reviewing a movie and not a genre of music. This may surprise you, but I almost skipped this movie. However, I decided to see it because I wanted to give my perspective on the movie as someone who really didn't like rap music or N.W.A as I felt like this could help people who were on the fence with this movie like I was due to their dislike of the genre. Turns out that everyone was right. I was shocked by how much I actually enjoyed this movie.

If you don't know about Straight Outta Compton, it's the biopic of the rap/hip-hop group N.W.A, a very influential group when it came to popularizing the rap genre. I recently finished a huge project where I went week by week through the entire history of the Billboard Hot 100 to determine what the top songs of all time were and honestly rap music wasn't really much of a thing at all until these guys stepped on the scene in the late 80's. As a group they didn't actually have any huge Billboard hits outside the rap charts, but their influence was huge and when they broke up in the early 90's, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube had very successful solo careers, especially Dr. Dre as he had several huge Billboard Hot 100 hits. Because of this success, a whole slew of other rappers came on the scene and by the year 2000 rap music had almost completely monopolized the charts along with R&B. There was several years in the 2000's that were dominated by rap. That's died down a bit today, but rap music is still very popular and most pop singers have even felt the need feature a rap artist in their song in order to add a different dimension to their song and make it more popular. So yes, in terms of the history of music as a whole, N.W.A played a huge role. Straight Outta Compton, which is the title of their debut album, chronicles the rise and fall of N.W.A and focuses specifically on Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Easy-E.

Like I mentioned, the rise of rap music isn't exactly something I'm happy about, so telling that story isn't why I liked the movie. In my opinion, what made this movie good was how relevant this movie is right now with recent events that have happened and how powerful the message in the movie is. This was almost like an extension of the civil rights movement in a way. Often we look back at the history of the civil rights movement and are disgusted at how racist people were towards blacks back then and in doing so, we sometimes forget that even though Martin Luther King, Jr. and others made a whole lot of progress with the rights of blacks, racism has never gone away. In Straight Outta Compton, we see a lot of scenes where the police, in an attempt to control gang violence and what not, unfairly approach these black kids and start beating and arresting them just because they are black and look like they are a part of a gang when in reality they haven't done anything wrong, don't have any drugs on them, are just walking home, or stepped outside the studio after recording. These officers were flat out racist in the way they treated these guys and it's despicable. The thing is, there's been plenty of stories in the news recently where we've seen stuff like this happen where officers beat to death a black person when he didn't do much or go to the extreme in beating or shooting a black person. No, not all police officers are bad, but this is a real issue right now that has sparked riots all over.

What I find respectable about N.W.A is how they reacted to this poor treatment. They wrote music about their situation to tell the world the types of things they are going through. There's a point in the movie where a journalist is interviewing Ice Cube and Ice Cube calls himself a journalist as well, he's just being brutally honest to the world about what's happening. Music is a very good medium to express this in and as they do, it sparks a lot of controversy. People are shocked at what they are hearing. Can they really sing and perform this stuff? Police even stop them before concerts and order them not to perform this type of music and threaten to arrest them if they do. The FBI even sends them a letter telling them that their music has sparked a lot of violence towards law enforcement and they need to stop. What do they do? They ignore those threats. They feel they have the freedom of speech to sing whatever they want to and they do so because they want to send a message to the world that they are be treated poorly and it needs to stop. They decide that they are willing to stand up for themselves and deal with whatever consequences they face because of it. This actually makes for a really interesting and really intense story that will stick with you long after you finish.

I do have some issues with the movie, however, but they are not quite the issues that I thought I would have when I went into this movie. My biggest issue is that this is is a LOOONG movie. I'd say that on average, most biopics are between 100 and 120 minutes. I feel that's a good length for a biopic. Straight Outta Compton is 147 minutes long. I know some people have said that it breezes by and that everything that happens is important to the plot, so they shouldn't have made it shorter. I disagree. This movie was way too long and there were a lot of points where I felt it just dragged on and on. Also, going along with that, much of what I just talked about in the previous two paragraphs that made the movie really interesting happened in the first half of the movie. The second half of the movie is about the relationship that our main three characters had with each other as well as their manager Jerry Heller that caused the group to breakup and start solo careers and what happens in the aftermath of all of it. This is interesting, especially because all of our actors do a great job, especially Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller, but it's the less interesting part of the movie. Thus I feel the movie lost a lot of steam in the second half and that caused me to like the movie less. They did have a nice tribute to Easy-E, who passed away in the mid-90's, but outside that I was kinda bored in the second half.

Overall, though, I was very surprised with this movie. No, I'm not going to go download any music to my Apple Music library from Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Easy-E, or N.W.A as a group. I can say that I appreciate their passion and meaning behind their music and I appreciate that they were able to stand up for themselves despite the circumstances, but the style still isn't pleasing to my ears. That's why you didn't really hear me talk about the soundtrack of the movie. I'm not a huge fan. If you like their music, you're going to love the soundtrack, but I think you already knew that, so what's the point of me saying that? But despite this, I was still able to enjoy this movie and enjoy the strong, relevant message that it gave. No these guys aren't model citizens, but they were able to stand up for themselves and bluntly say how they felt when that wasn't necessarily the most popular thing to do and I think that is respectable. So yes, I will say in conclusion that you don't have to be a fan of rap or hip-hop music to enjoy this movie. If you were on the fence about this, I'd say it's worth a shot. If you are a fan of N.W.A, chances are you've probably already seen it, so I don't really need to give you my recommendation. You might get mad at me because my grade for the movie will be a bit lower than you would've given it, but all things considered I think I'm being quite generous. That grade I speak of is a 7.5/10.

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