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Straight Outta Compton


Stars: O'Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, Neil Brown Jr, Aldis Hodge, Alexandra Shipp, Elena Goode, R Marcos Taylor

Director: F Gary Gray

The rags-to-riches story of five rappers from the deprived LA area of Compton who changed the face of American youth music in the late 1980s and beyond.

And, even if you can't hear the words that the rappers - Dr Dre, Ice Cube, Easy-E, DJ Yell and MC Ren - belt out, the throbbing vitality is overwhelming, at least for the first hour, in numbers largely based on anger.

And the film is quick to emphasise the brutality of the largely white police in those times, often stopping and handcuffing black men for simply standing around on the pavement, forcing them to lie flat on their faces.

Following their initial success, the boys, billed as NWA and led by former drug dealer Easy-E, are signed up by money-grabbing manager Jerry (Giamatti, playing virtually the same role he had in Love & Mercy); 'What's NWA?,' he asks, 'No Whites Allowed?' 'No,' he's told, 'Niggaz Wit' Attitude.'

Soon the NWA members are up to their ears in swimming pools, booze, semi-naked women and, in E's case at least, drugs as well. But with wealth come the inevitable disagreements over fair shares of the profits, which Jerry's chicanery doesn't help. Cube (Jackson, son of the real-life Cube), quits the group, followed by Dre (Hawkins), who disastrously inherits a cabal of muscleman who threaten to destroy his image.

With such a lengthy runtime, though, it's no surprise that the film begins to drag in the second half, as the guys' strained relationships become increasingly tiresome; it's almost as if, after its initial impact, the film can find just too little to say. Performances are functional but, apart from Jackson's, rather lacking in personality.

David Quinlan

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
147 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 25 Aug 2015