So far, at least, Straight Outta Compton is like the no-limit Texas Hold’em of rap biopics. Because some people, pros even, won’t play no-limit. They can’t handle the swings. And, my goodness, the swings on this thing!
As an amorphous, never-to-be concept, an N.W.A biopic seemed like an incredible idea. Then, for a little while, the whole thing seemed mired in the inevitable — that is, the infighting that doomed the band in the first place, this time being carried out by the estates of the various representatives as well as the living, breathing modern-day stars. When you have guys with more money than God on one hand, and guys who never did quite get theirs on the other, it seems destined to be an ugly scene.1
So far, that scene has been even uglier than we could have imagined, with the Suge Knight hit-and-run case turning into national news.
But then — they actually got a director?!2 They actually got a cast?3 Like, it’s actually happening?! Yes, yes, and yes. And then, also: no. As a rule, the rawer and scarier and more potent the actual story is, the more streamlined and neutered and bullshit the movie ends up being.
That would be Friday auteur F. Gary Gray.
Mostly unknowns, plus Cube’s kid.
Then the Straight Outta Compton teaser hit, and it was good. Plus, it had Paul Giamatti in it! And now here comes the full trailer, and I don’t even know, man. Will this be a mostly accurate portrayal of the World’s Most Dangerous Group? Possibly not. For one, is Giamatti playing Jerry Heller as a sympathetic character all the way through? Will it be non-bombastic in its portrayal? Doesn’t look like it! The talking points and allusions to modern-day sociopolitical issues have been dropped in with all the subtlety of an anvil.4 Will it be a goddamn epic, though? Quite possibly, YES. If this bonkers trailer is any indication, at some point the beautiful mind of F. Gary apparently decided to shoot the N.W.A biopic like a war movie? Holy crap. I need to see this immediately.
Overly apt Cube quote about the purpose of art? Check. Rodney King news sample? Yup. GiamHeller muttering, “Guys like you change shit like this … ”? Of course.