Compton, Los Angeles. 1986. Five friends, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella and MC Ren, decide to combine their musical skills into a rap group called N.W.A.. Fame, fortune and fall-outs await.
If it’s rough in places, with some cartoonish supporting characters and a tendency to dramatically overdo the emotional moments, there’s a persuasive energy and genuine passion to F. Gary Gray’s story of the explosion of N.W.A that makes its faults secondary. Parallels between the anger at police violence that drove N.W.A to record Straight Outta Compton in 1988 and current situations in America are obvious and treated with appropriate anger. It’s long but never feels indulgent because there’s a lot to pack in, from the rap group’s formation, to the release of an album that ignited its young audience and terrified police, to infighting, going solo, reunions and death. If the film is melodramatic it’s because the people it depicts lived melodramatically.
Potent and visceral in its depiction of street life and blinged-up excess alike, Straight Outta Compton delivers big beats of both kinds.