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"Straight Outta Compton" (2015 release; 147 min.) brings the story of the mega-influential hip-hop group N.W.A. As the movie opens, we hear radio and TV snippets over the opening credits about "the war on drugs" and the "crack epidemic in America". After the opening credits, we are reminded that this is "Compton, CA, 1986". During the initial 20 min. or so, we get to know how N.W.A's five members (Dr. Dre, Easy E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren) all live in Compton and are dealing with various problems (the police being one, obviously), and how N.W.A eventually came into being. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: the movie is directed by F. Gary Gray, previously best known for directing "The Negotiator" and "The Italian Job". With all due respect for those earlier movies, what Gray has accomplished with "Straight Outta Compton" is in another league altogether. I should mention that I'm not particularly a fan of hip-hop music. That, and the movie's 2 1/2 hr. running time, almost kept me from going to see this. But given the almost universal critical claim this movie has been gathering, and the fact that I love music in general, including musical bio-pics and documentaries (such as the recent Brian Wilson "Love and Mercy" bio-pic and the Amy Winehouse doc called "AMY"), I decided I needed to check out what the buzz was all about. So glad I did. "Straight Outta Compton" is almost epic, covering the years 1986 to 1995, and a lot of ground is covered indeed. All of the classic moments are here, including of course the immediate incident leading to the band making "F Tha Police", their seminal 1989 tour at the top of their game (and fame), and on and on. The biggest surprise of the movie for me is the fairly large amount of screen time for Suge Knight, whom we see entice, intimidate, cajole, threaten, bully and outright force himself onto the West Coast hip hop scene (and he is of course as we speak held on a murder charge). The acting performances are top-notch throughout, including O'Shea Jackson, Jr. as Ice Cube (Ice Cube's real-life son, incidentally), Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell as Eazy E. Bottom line: these 2 1/2 hours just flew by.

We here in Cincinnati got an extra jolt when at some point, when N.W.A was on the 1989 tour, we see a brief reenactment of their show at Riverfront Coliseum (nowadays known as US Bank Arena). When the end titles started rolling, there was a spontaneous applause from the audience, just to give you an idea how well the movie was received at this screening. Bottom line: if you love music (even without being a big hip-hop fan), you will not want to miss this, and I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Straight Outta Compton" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! (Read more Reviews)


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