Straight Outta Compton Blu-ray Review
A music biopic isn’t about to set the world on fire, but STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON comes pretty close. It has a lot to say about the mood of America right now even though it takes place from 1986 until 1995. During that time period, we watch the birth and lingering death of one of the most infamous rap groups to grace the music scene, N.W.A. The vast majority of STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is symbolically filled with messages about police brutality, disrespect, poverty and crime, and how art can change the world for years to come.
The film shows how Eazy-E (Mitchell), Ice Cube (Jackson) and Dr. Dre (Hawkins) first meet. They agree to go in on their own label and quickly garnish the attention of veteran music manager, Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). From there, they go onto release their debut album, go on a successful tour, get unwanted attention from federal authorities, and inevitably squabble over money, drugs, and women before the split ways and do their own side projects. It’s a by-the-books biopic.
About midway through, the movie highlights the Rodney King police beatings, showing how N.W.A.’s music was more than just a rallying cry; it was an angry mouthpiece for millions. Possibly by design, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON was released nearly a year after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In Ferguson and LA., racial unrest and distrust with authority figures were prevalent years those well-known shootings. And pop culture certainly wasn’t the reason anger simmered before boiling over, but it more or less served as a voice for the voiceless. But in each instance, the N.W.A. and the creative team behind STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, conveyed a message that went beyond a simple rebellion against the police.
The music and the movie have a more focused approach, simply highlighting that that fury is there because nothing has really changed. Of course by the time STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON relays that core message, the movie spins off into various storylines about how our three main rappers went off into their own rap careers. N.W.A. was only around for five years so there’s not too much material to really compact into a movie. However, there are enough tidbits of information that it’s actually impressive the creators shortened the biography of N.W.A. into such a tight movie. Hardcore fans will like the details and rookies to the history of rap group will find the narrative easy to follow along with.
The problems that arise during STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON aren’t glaring, but they are a bit aggravating. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre appear to come out squeaky clean in their rise to power, while Eazy-E feels unnecessarily dumped upon. The movie also seems to gloss over Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, and MC Ren. I know that there are a lot of people involved with N.W.A., and earlier I credited STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON for whittling it down, but there’s more to their story than just three pals who found a passion and voice, only to have it all fall apart due to contractual arguments and petty feuds.
Depending on which version you watch, the director’s cut or theatrical, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is a two and a half hour movies that’s rarely boring. Although I watched the Director’s Cut which felt like overkill when I noticed the run time was pushing nearly three hours. Both keep intact the cliché quarrels and reconciliations, but they feel more unique thanks to the superb performances of the main trio. For a main cast of nobody’s, they certainly bring life to a generic script. This has been a passion project of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre’s for years, and all that time, hardship, and money has paid off.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) Picture clarity is flawless and every intimate detail comes through clearly on this blu-ray presentation.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) While the video quality is always important, for a movie like this, the audio is also as important. The mixing on this might as well have been done by Dr. Dre himself, it is stellar.
Deleted Scenes (5:41): There are only two scenes, out of the six, that are really deleted scenes. The other four out of six are more like scene setters before set pieces that were snipped out.
Deleted Song Performance (1:28): A cut song from an N.W.A. concert.
N.W.A. The Origins (3:49): The real N.W.A. members, along with cast and crew, talk about N.W.A.’s early history and talk about transitioning that to film
Impact (1:35): A feature deserving of more length. Once again the real N.W.A., along with cast and crew, reflect on the cultural significance of the group.
Director’s Journey (3:22): The feature focuses on the L.A. riots, unrest in Compton and recreating that slice of history.
The Streets: Filming in Compton (6:03): This feature talks about filming and highlighting the nuances of geographic character of this movie, Compton.
N.W.A. Performs in Detroit (4:54): This feature looks at the making of one the big set pieces of the movie, a Detroit concert that got out of hand.
Becoming N.W.A. (8:30): A look at casting the actors to bring the real-life story of N.W.A. to life. The most interesting aspect was the casting of Eazy E.
Feature Commentary with Director/Producer F. Gary Gray: I’m not a fan of solo commentaries, but Gray is highly engaging, providing insightful, interesting, and deep thoughts throughout every aspect of this commentary. He dives into performances, music, casting, shooting, and anything else you’d conceivably want to know.