Straight Outta Compton is a film I very much wanted to see at the cinema, but before I did, I learned there was a Director’s Cut due out on Blu-ray in due course. For purists, this Blu-ray contains both the Director’s Cut and Theatrical versions.
Beginning in 1986, we’re introduced war on drugs in the ’80s and into the ’90s, as well as the musicians one by one starting with Eric Wright, aka Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), making a living of sorts as a low-rent drug dealer; then moving on to wannabe DJ and record-scratcher, Andre Young aka Dr Dre (Corey Hawkins) who’s having arguments with his mum, causing him to have to move out (who doesn’t have disagreements at home as a youngster?) and O’Shea Jackson aka Ice Cube (portrayed by his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr), witnesing Crenshaw Mafia’s OG 2-Tone pulling a gun on their school bus after one lad tries to be clever, showing off to some passing gangsters.
Also taking in Antoine Carraby aka DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr) and Lorenzo Patterson aka MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), brutality from racist police inspires their iconic track, Fuck Tha Police, especially on their 1989 tour when one state forbids them from playing it. Ths song also has a resonance following Rodney King’s beating to death in 1991. However, it’s not long before arguments develop within the band, not least because band creator Eazy-E is eating lobster with sleazy manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) while the rest are eating burgers, but the issues go much deeper than that and the divide begins, showing tensions with Ice Cube, later bringing in Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield – Selma, Dope) and so on.
Straight Outta Compton never feels like it outstays its welcome, even at nearly 3hrs long. And I can’t think what they’d cut out of it to bring it down to its theatrical length of 147 minutes, since there’s not a moment which doesn’t need to be there. However, there were some elements which *were* left out, plus a query I have, all of which I’ll hide behind spoiler tags, since I didn’t know the full story before I saw it and it’s best to let the film tell the tale, the best it can:
However, it’s not a spoiler to say that none of it explains why Ice Cube went on to make terrible alleged comedies with Kevin Hart…
Back to discussing this movie only, though, and there are great performances from everyone playing the members of NWA, as well as Giamatti as their manager. Anyone making a cameo is always there for a reason, such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur (Marcc Rose), so no-one ever feels unnecessary in any way. Also, early on with the establishing shots, it does feel like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: The Movie, but then that’s a testament to Rockstar Games’ fantastic videogames series.
I don’t go wholly for their music because it does get very repetitive quite quickly. However, for this film, it doesn’t overdo them and plays you what you need to hear in order to adequately tell the story (caveats in the spoiler, aside). In addition, the songs are remixed brilliantly for 5.1, the split-surround effects being as important as one of the cast, at times; and it’s good to have the subtitles on so you can keep abreast of all the lyrics.
PS. Note that Fuck That Police also has the same pacing as Betty Boo’s Let Me Take You There, from 1988. Perhaps they copied her?
The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and is crisp and sharp, looking at its best during the concert scenes in the town. As you’d expect for a modern film, there are no problems to be found.
Audio-wise, while it’s not a SFX movie, the songs have been remixed brilliantly for 5.1, the split-surround effects being as important as one of the cast, at times.
The extras are as follows:
- Deleted Scenes (5:41): 6 scenes here, but all way too brief to have any real meaning.
- Deleted Song Performance (1:28): A brief remix of NWA’s Compton’s N The House.
- NWA: The Origins (3:49): With a title like this, it sounds like it’ll preface an in-depth documentary on the making of the film… but no, it’s less than four minutes long. There’s some brief on-set footage, plus chat from Dr Dre and Ice Cube plus the cast members who portray them – Corey Hawkins and O’Shea Jackson Jr, respectively. Director F Gary Gray also shows his face.
- Impact (1:35): With such tiny pieces like this, Universal really shouldn’t have bothered. This is ridiculous. Who’s minding the store?
- Director’s Journey (3:22): The director talks about recreating the Rodney King riots.
- The Streets: Filming in Compton (6:03): Unsurprisingly, talking about filming in Compton, including the use of a 14-foot battering ram to bust open drug houses.
- NWA Performs in Detroit (4:54): The band turning up on set, with Ice Cube also performing.
- Becoming NWA (8:30): More about bringing the cast together.
- Audio description: Does exactly what it says on the tin.
- Audio commentary: with director/producer F Gary Gray.
So, there’s not a huge amount here, just a small few bits and pieces split up into tiny segments, all of which could’ve been thrown together in one ‘making of’ piece.
There are subtitles in English only and just 20 chapters, so it need a fair few more, especially in its extended form as I go by the rule of thumb of one every 5 minutes. The menu mixes clips from the film to a brief excerpt of Fuck Tha Police.
Running time: 147 / 167 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Released: January 11th 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, French, German
Subtitles: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Norwegian, Swedish,
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic /i Scope, Anamorphic Kowa Scope, Redcode RAW (6K))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: F Gary Gray
Producers: Matt Alvarez, Scott Bernstein, Dr Dre, F Gary Gray, Ice Cube and Tomica Woods-Wright
Screenplay: Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff (from a story by S Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff)
Music: Joseph Trapanese
Ice Cube: O’Shea Jackson Jr
Dr Dre: Corey Hawkins
Eazy-E: Jason Mitchell
Dj Yella: Neil Brown Jr
MC Ren: Aldis Hodge
The D.O.C: Marlon Yates Jr
Suge Knight: R Marcos Taylor
Tomica: Carra Patterson
Kim: Alexandra Shipp
Jerry Heller: Paul Giamatti
Nicole: Elena Goode
Tyree: Keith Powers
Young Warren G: Joshua Brockington
Warren G: Sheldon A Smith
Snoop Dogg; Keith Stanfield
Jinx: Cleavon McClendon
Lavetta: Aeriél Miranda
Verna Griffin: Lisa Renee Pitts
Doris Jackson: Angela Elayne Gibbs
Hosea Jackson: Bruce Beatty
Lonzo Williams: Corey Reynolds
Bryan Turner: Tate Ellington
Chuck D: Rogelio Douglas Jr
Journalists: Andrew Borba, Matt Corboy, Larry Sullivan, Deborah Lacey
Greg Mack: F Gary Gray
Tone: Allen Maldonado
Rock: Demetrius Grosse
Michael ‘Compton Menace’ Taylor: Og Blood
Tupac Shakur: Marcc Rose