Reactions were mixed when this movie came out. Hip hop and rap fans — especially old school — couldn’t wait to see it while those who despise those genres of music posted things on Facebook such as “I’d rather have all of my fingernails ripped off” and stayed far away from the theater.
Turns out you don’t have to be a true fan — or any type of fan really — of rap, hip hop or the band NWA to appreciate the film “Straight Outta Compton” — although with a running time of two hours and 27 minutes, it can’t hurt.
This is the story of the rags-to-riches rise of a group of young black men who grew up in gang-riddled Compton, California, near Los Angeles, and formed the group NWA — Niggaz wit’ Attitudes.
Those men were Ice Cube (born O’Shea Jackson), Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby, MC Ren, The D.O.C. and Arabian Prince, although the movie’s main focus is on the first five on this list.
In its first weekend, “Compton” grossed $60.2 million and shot right to the number one spot of the New York Times Top movies list where it remains — with good reason.
I won’t get into who played whom in the movie or how well they each did. Instead, I want to focus on why I came out of the theater feeling as if I had just seen an amazing movie — which I had.
First, it’s a true story. True stories, if told well, almost always resonate with people, especially familiar stories.
Next, it focuses on police brutality, particularly unfairly racially motivated police brutality. With the country finally starting to call for a stop to this type of police behavior, “Compton” is timely. People in the theater were reacting to certain scenes by yelling at the screen when cops overstepped. Audience participation screams great movie.
The movie also focuses on free speech, which brought a smile to my face. When the group NWA is threatened with arrest if they use certain language or sing certain songs on stage, they very loudly and proudly — and with a great deal of help from the crowd —remind those who would try to stop them that free speech is a Constitutional right. Of course, they find out that free speech is not always without consequences. Still, it’s always good to be reminded that we all have rights.
“Compton” is filled with history — including the Rodney King trial and its aftermath. After the movie, on the drive home, my teenage son and I had a long discussion about that moment in history. That’s also a good thing.
But most surprising, the movie brought tears to my eyes three times. I am very OK with that as I love emotion-filled movies. I just didn’t expect it. It is heavy on the ups and downs of relationships between friends, family and business partners, as well as death — and it’s not always pretty.
Filled with drug use, violence, sex, gangsta rap and the language that accompanies it, “Compton” isn’t for the faint of heart or the easily offended. However, this is a true story and this true story is about — you guessed it —drugs, violence, sex, gangsta rap and the language that accompanies it, and then some.
But more than that, it’s a story that has a great message for all if you’re willing to put preconceived notions aside.