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Laramie Movie Scope:
Straight Outta Compton

History, violent business and scorching music

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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August 21, 2015 -- Since I know little about gangsta rap, or much about any rap music, I found this to be a very informative film about rap music and the recording industry in the 1980s and 1990s, and the California history of that era. The film is centered on characters representing the real life artists and businessmen involved in the rise and fall of the rap group N.W.A. Not only is this film informative, it is well-written, well-acted and entertaining. The music is electrifying.

Obviously, I'm not going to tell you that this film got the history right, since I don't know the history, but it sure looks and sounds right. The main characters are rappers Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell of “Contraband”) Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson, Jr.) Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins of “Iron Man 3”) and N.W.A. business manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti of “Sideways”).

Easy-E is approached by his friends to help get the group started with the use of his drug dealing money, but he ends up as a rapper by default in an odd turn of events. He hires Jerry Heller as the group's business manager, and the group soon becomes a success, feeding off of Ice Cube's fiery reality-based, confrontational lyrics and Dr. Dre's music. Just as quickly, trouble starts when the money from the music doesn't trickle down to Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. The money mostly seems to stay in the pockets of Easy-E and Heller.

Ice Cube is the first to defect. He refuses to sign the contract offered to him by Jerry Heller. Ice Cube goes solo, and very successfully, too. Dr. Dre also defects under the influence of scary record producer Suge Knight (played so well by stunt performer R. Marcus Taylor, that this performance might serve as a springboard for some good acting roles in the future). Rivalries lead to jealousy among the former friends in the band, but there is an attempt to reconcile later on.

A scene showing the police manhandling the rappers right on the doorstep of the recording studio, immediately brings to mind the whole string of police beatings and shootings of unarmed blacks in recent years. The Rodney King beating and riots following the trial are shown in the movie, events which bring to mind the race riots in Ferguson, Missouri a year ago. After being roughed up by police, we see a powerful performance by N.W.A. of the song “Fuck tha Police” in Detroit, where the group is arrested on charges of inciting a riot.

This is not ancient history. It is relevant to events happening in America today. Many people think the race problems evident in the time of the Watts riots 50 years ago and the Rodney King riots of 1992 are gone, but they are not. Much has changed since then, but for many people of color, living in segregated ghettos, things have not changed enough. The angry, confrontational music of N.W.A. spoke to the feelings of many people in the 1980s and 1990s. It still does. This film reminds me of that. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)