F Gary Gray's Straight Outta Compton is a sprawling biopic that covers the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A, five men who captured lighting in a bottle as they translated their experiences of growing up on the streets of Compton, California into their music. At its best, Straight Outta Compton brings vitality to the story of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Easy E, embodying the anger and raw energy of N.W.A's music. The problem is much of the film's energy relies too heavily on the music itself, as I'd argue the film is unable to create much emotion or energy on its own terms, at times almost feeling like a sing-a-long, as it relies on many of N.W.A.'s hit songs express its themes. Straight Outta Compton wants to say something about the abusive power of the police state but its far too eager to get its point across early on, forcing the subject early on only to abandon it later in the film. I found it particularly strange how quickly Straight Outta Compton glosses over the impact of the Rodney King trial later on in the film, a decision that is jarring considering the film's early themes centered around the abuse of authority these three men witnessed on a daily basis. The most interesting aspect of Straight Outta Compton is how the film is really about the corruptive qualities which business and power can have, as the three primary characters in Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Easy E all find themselves falling out of touch from one and other, seduced by the money and power promised to them. The film's back-half begins to buckle under its own weight, losing a bit of its focus as it introduces too many characters and tries to capture too many legacies. Featuring solid acting all around and a story that works more than it doesn't, Straight Outta Compton is a cookie-cutter biopic that relies on its subject's powerful music for far too much, whether it be its themes, ideals, or vitality.
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