The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
Straight Outta Compton (Universal Pictures)
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Straight Outta Compton is a poorly written and hopelessly wordy bio pic. There’s just too much talking. For a story about a rock band (yes I just called them a rock band… it’s all rock people wake up) they skip the fun parts to show the constant turmoil. It starts off good enough. Showing the forming of the seminal gangsta rap group, and that part is fantastic. I love the music and seeing them come together is loads of fun. But then they spend the rest of the movie on their feuds and battles and it’s not even interesting. It’s boring. They’re just talking. The direction and the story are garbage. The acting is not good enough to carry all the drama. And the only time I got excited was when they introduced another of their classic songs. That’s it. Not a good movie at all.
It’s hard to spoil this one because like with the Amy Winehouse bio pic, you know he dies at the end. Easy E dies of AIDS. And this is the only true drama. The rest is bickering and contracts and a cavalcade of look-a-likes. Here’s Pac and Suge and Snoop. It’s like a wax museum exhibit called the History of Gangsta Rap.
I was a big NWA fan. But I kept it to myself. Always listened to them on my headphones. Not because they were controversial. Public Enemy were a thousand times more controversial and I blasted that shit as loud as I could. Nah. I grew up in New York. I wasn’t supposed to like the West Coast Rap scene better. But I did. I really did.
The clever use of Parliament Funkadelic and George Clinton and James Brown and the swagger in the vocal tracks. This was my shit. Ice Cube’s lyrics were funny as fuck and the imagery was cool. The whole thing screamed “Cool.” Don’t shoot me but West Coast Rap was better. (sorry Atlantic Ocean)
A quick word on the East Coast. Everybody but Jay Z is shit. P Diddy is full on crap. Biggie was largely over-rated. It was sugary and fake. However, if you went back to beginnings. It was all happening in the East. I was a big fan of KRS one and Eric B & Rakim and like everyone else owned all the whack hits of Sugarhill Gang and Run DMC. (But I recognized that their rhymes were childish and their backing tracks were disco).
Then Dre started bringing the funk back and Ice Cube introduced bitter truth and not just bragging and trying to get laid. Sure they were still bragging and trying to get laid, but it was less bubblegum and more cigarettes and beer. So my East Coast was P.E. (political consciousness) and my West Coast was real stories from the street. And all the rest of rap can (in the immortal words of Ice Cube) “Eat a Dick.”
You may have noticed that I’ve spent this entire review talking about rap music and not about the movie. It’s just that boring. How do you make an NWA movie, about true musical geniuses (I put Dr. Dre in the same class as Mozart or Miles Davis in a heartbeat), and not make it feel like you’ve watched something that was a cross between Boyz in The Hood, Amadeus and Animal House… WTF.
The music is the only thing good about Straight Outta Compton. The music and the fact that all the actors looked so much like the real people (Ice Cube’s son plays his father in the movie). But they don’t play enough of each song. And these young dudes can barely act. I’m sorry. They’re not bad, but they’re not good enough to spend two hours listening to them talk about contracts and record deals and “bitches & money.”
Straight Outta Compton is boring. But the album Straight Outta Compton and the part in the movie where they show the making of the album are awesome.