Review: Straight Outta Compton (movie)

I wanted to see this when it first came out but somehow never got to it. I haven’t been to the cinema for quite a while, in fact.

A tempting offer for digital purchase allowed me to see this on my tablet on New Year’s Day.

I’m not a hard-core NWA fan, in fact my ears lean much more to rock, but I absolutely loved their debut album Straight Outta Compton. It actually has the attitude of rock and roll but the sonic sensibility of fine pop music. I was too young too listen to their unarguably best album at the time of release, but I knew about them, I was a teenager during the “aftermath”.

With decades having passed (approaching 30yrs), a documentary movie was timely. Also because the white band rock biopic needed a challenge from black guys with attitudez…

Though there’s no real big name cast to the film I was surprised by how decently acted it was. There was a nice balance in that no one cast member stood out too much (maybe Easy-E was more foreground, though) and it told the story well. Embellishments with the truth have been acknowledged, but that’s not exclusive to this part-fictionalised film. NWA don’t claim to be angels but the experiences they faced did not allow them to be so, but when they channelled it into making beefy-beated clever raps they made something amazing that they weren’t able to sustain collectively.

I found it scary how much Ice Cube’s son looked and acted like his father in his role. And it was nice to have an insight into the band making their music; this must be authentic with members of NWA being on-set to advise. One of the villains, NWA’s manager, also comes across as a bit 3D. You’re allowed to judge to what percentage he was crucial to their success and demise.

Perhaps the one dud note is something I question.

Easy-E was said to have died of AIDS and this was dramatised with E coughing a lot, collapsing and ending up in hospital with a diagnosis of HIV and a low T-cell account (said to be a hallmark of AIDS). But as testified by family and friends his disease was rather sudden for AIDS which is marked by many gradual immunity challenges. His partner and child (to be born) tested negative, and his promiscuity did not create an HIV/AIDS cluster (else the media would’ve jumped on it). What happened was that a young black man was given the test against his will based on assumptions of his publicised life. Drearily, Easy-E had a respiratory infection and the film was quite implicit about his drug use as NWA fell apart. If he was treated properly he would have lived. I don’t doubt that.

Overall a good film. You might prefer to just rent it than own it.


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