Saturday, August 15, 2015
Cindy Prascik's Review of Straight Outta Compton
Dearest Blog: This weekend my cinema has again left me spoiled for choice, with three brand spanking new releases for my viewing pleasure. Unlike last weekend, I had reason to believe seeing this week's offerings might actually BE a pleasure.
Since it's two-and-a-half bleeding hours long, Straight Outta Compton did not play nice as part of a double- or triple-bill, and I had to make a special trip to see it. I'm pleased to report it was well worth the effort.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers, or, you know, real life.
Rap group N.W.A. busts out of its rough California neighborhood and becomes a music industry game-changer.
Dear Reader(s), it would be fair to say that, as a music fan, I was not quick to come to the rap table. When N.W.A. hit the streets in 1986, I was so far up Styx' and R.E.O. Speedwagon's butts I would never have given N.W.A. the time of day. I mention that only to prove that my affection for this movie is not borne of sentiment; it really, really is a fantastic movie. (And, curiously, both Styx and R.E.O. Speedwagon are briefly referenced, so...yay!)
Straight Outta Compton is long. Entirely TOO long, if we're being honest, but it's so good it almost gets away with it. Everything about the movie feels natural, from dialogue to delivery to scene cuts and angles. The three principals have fairly limited experience, but their terrific performances make them look like old pros, and the supporting cast is also solid from top to bottom. The picture's mood flows easily from tense to funny to flat-out brutal and back, but it never misses a beat or feels awkward.
Whatever level of fame, success, or wealth, N.W.A. has achieved, the violent lifestyle has followed, but I would refute anyone who calls this story a glorification of that lifestyle. On the contrary, the movie--and the music--are a reflection of the artists' circumstances, and, while N.W.A. has had a great deal of success, they've paid a heavy toll as well. There's no denying the impact N.W.A. and their revolutionary sound have had on millions of people worldwide, and this version of their story is both moving and extremely entertaining.
Straight Outta Compton runs 147 minutes (are you even kidding me??) and is rated R for "language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use."
Pretty much every musical act that gets famous has a similar story: the humble beginnings, shady dealings, infighting, the corrupting influence of money and fame, and--if they're lucky--a chance at redemption.
A good or not-so-good movie is in the telling, and Straight Outta Compton tells the hell out of the N.W.A. story.
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Straight Outta Compton gets eight and three quarters. (I desperately want to award the full nine, but I just can't justify that runtime!)
Until next time...