1 Star – Disturbing
It is beyond disturbing when young black men are disrespected and even killed by some police officers. It is also beyond disturbing that some young black men are raised in neighborhoods where the violence is so prevalent that to survive they form attitudes of anger and disrespect toward one another and those in authority. That we as a society are struggling with this dual reality is part of the purpose of F. Gary Gray’s film Straight Outta Compton.
Focusing on the real life experiences of the rappers of Compton, California, the writing team of Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus create the story and screenplay of the rise and fall of the rap group NWA. Creating a new form of rap focusing on real life in the streets are Dr. Dre – Andrea Young (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube – O’Shea Jackson (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dj Yella – Antoine Carraby (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren – Lorenzo Patterson (Aldis Hodge).
The portrayed journey of the creation of gangster rap within its true life inspiration is powerful. The talent of these young men is unmistakable. The fact that they used music to try to cope with their distressing lives is obvious. But what makes the journey even more disturbing is the financial manipulation of their manager, Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) that creates rifts in their friendship and the violence of Suge Knight when he takes advantage of that distrust.
The film deserves the R-rating it received and is a verbal, visual and moral assault on the audience just as it is on the young lives having to live in that neighborhood. The money and fame their music created does not lift them or their families, but instead provides opportunity for more expensive debauchery. This is seen when Easy-E is proudly promiscuous throughout his young life and consequently dies of AIDS at the age of 31.
The empty morals, the lack of any larger faith community and the violent disrespect and disregard shown in language, business and relationship is overwhelming. As such it is a disturbing and timely message in a nation struggling to find our way in race relations, community unrest and legal injustice. This film is a disturbing though necessary voice in that national dialogue.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. When Dr. Dre leaves home as a teenager it is clear that his mother could not provide the guidance he needed. This absence of adult protection then left him vulnerable to adults like Jerry Heller who used him. The fact that this is often the case with managers taking advantage of young talent cries out for some form of protection. What do you think should be done?
2. The aggressive art form of gangster rap caused the police to arrest the NWA in Detroit. The result of this was even more notoriety. What do you think is the best response to such art?
3. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” How do you propose we stop the injustice that still plagues our nation?