First Hit: Loved watching these young men fight through police repression to make a name for themselves.
I’ll deal with the downsides of this film first: It needed about 30 minutes trimmed from its running time. And two, I would have liked a little more about what connected Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Cory Hawkins) and Easy-E (Jason Mitchell) to each other.
The film had the relationships at a slight arms distance, and it may have been how they were, but it just seemed to me that there may have been more to the depth of their connection (especially Dre and Cube). The most powerful parts of the film were how situations with Police drove Ice Cube to write amazing powerful lyrics and then, of course, the concert scenes.
The climatic concert scene was the Detroit concert where the cops told them to not sing “Fuck Tha Police”. Of course they did, using their amendment driven rights of free speech to tell their story. This was was followed by a riot and arrest. The sadness of Easy-E and Jerry Heller's (Paul Giamatti) greed was hard to watch, especially when the others trusted them. They were getting theirs while the rest of the group wasn’t.
Then in comes Suge Knight (R. Marcus Taylor) bullying himself into saving the day, but really only for his benefit. The film also gives glimpses of Snoop Dogg and Tupac. We get to see Ice figure out he needs to leave NWA and go out successfully on his own. Then we see Dre figure out he needs to control his own destiny as well. He leaves Death Row Records and starts Aftermath through Interscope Records and Jimmy Iovine. Anyone who knows anything about music knows that Aftermath has a stable of amazing rappers, including 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem.
This films gives a great lesson and view of the West Coast rap scene.
Jackson Jr. was incredibly strong as Ice and playing his dad must have been interesting and amazing. Hawkins was wonderful as Dre. My favorite scene was when his blew up at Death Row Records office which was followed by his telling Suge, “I’m out”. Mitchell was sublime as the wheeler-dealer E. His first scene of him learning to rap was fantastic, along his finding out that he had AIDs were spot on. Giamatti was very good as NWA’s first manager. My favorite scene was when he was pleading with E to not leave – but always stating that he took care of his end. Taylor was incredibly sublime as Suge. He had the cigar smoking attitude down pat. Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff wrote a very strong, intelligent, and pointed script. Outside that I think the film was too long, F. Gary Gray’s direction was very good.
Overall: This was a very strong film about West Coast rap scene and I liked it.