Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use. Starring Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Aldis Hodge, Corey Hawkins, R. Marcucs Taylor and Paul Giamatti. Directed by F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen and The Italian Job).
In the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young men translated their experiences growing up into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority, they gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation. Following the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton tells the astonishing story of how these youngsters revolutionized music and pop culture forever the moment they told the world the truth about life in the hood and ignited a cultural war.
Over the years I’ve discovered that some reviews are easier to write than others. For example excellent films and terrible movies are the easiest reviews to write. Movies that are just ok can be tough but the most difficult reviews are for films that are of the highest quality but the lowest virtue.
Needless to say Straight Outta Compton is one of those films. It is filled with disturbing images and inappropriate language … a lot of inappropriate language. The messages of disrespecting authorities, sexual immorality and solving conflict with violence are not things we would or should celebrate. On the other hand, there are some very positive things about this film. There are strong messages about passionately following your dreams, working hard, perseverance, friendship and loyalty.
So how does one reconcile those two extremes?
Well let’s look at a few of the technical elements of them film. The true story about the rise of N.W.A. is insightful and entertaining. Gray keeps things moving at a steady pace and uses a clever trick to introduce the characters as well as inform us of the timeline.
The cast is superb. Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Corey Hawkins look so much like Easy E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre respectfully, that at times I forgot I was watching a movie and not a documentary … although to be fair O’Shea Jackson Jr. is Ice Cube’s son. And Marcc Rose looks exactly like Tupac Shakur. Paul Giamatti, as always, delivers a very strong performance.
I have no musical talent, but I love music. I love the power of music and how it can amplify or even change your mood. For the men in NWA, it was a vehicle to express their frustration at a broken system and it affected millions of people. That is amazingly powerful.
So how should we as Christ followers respond to a film like Straight Outta Compton? Well hopefully we can recognize the talent, passion and work ethic of the members of N.W.A. Hopefully we can acknowledge the power and influence of music and make wise decisions about what we are listening to. And hopefully we can engage in intelligent conversation about the subject matter.
Things you need to know about the movie
There are several scenes where women are seen fully nude and engaging is sexual activity. The language is extremely graphic and strong. There are over 330 F-words, almost 100 N-words, 180 S-words and a lot more.
There are also a couple of scenes of violence – mostly fighting and recreational drug use is seen throughout, mostly marijuana. Characters smoke marijuana throughout the film. Cocaine is also seen in the opening scene of the movie.
How to talk to students about the movie
Most people view the members of N.W.A. as either heroes or villains. Either way, there is no denying their influence. In one scene, Ice Cube says, “Speak a little truth and people lose their minds”.
- What do you think of that quote?
- How did they speak the truth?
Read Ephesians 4:15. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
- How does Paul tell us to speak the truth?
- What does that mean?
- How can you speak the truth in a love this week?