Tensions run high in a tale of racial divide

Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton (15). Drama/Musical. O’Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins. Director: F. Gary Gray.

Straight Outta Compton is a fascinating portrait of youthful exuberance, raw ambition and racial divide that rubs salt into the wounds inflicted since the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The film opens in 1986 with pals Dr Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr) searching for an outlet for their creativity.

Tensions are high between police and black youths – random stop and searches are an unwelcome part of neighbourhood life.

With gentle persuasion from his buddies, Eazy-E sets up his own label, Ruthless Records, and the group’s first release Boyz-n-the-Hood piques the interest of Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti).

He sweet talks Eazy-E into becoming the band’s manager.

An electrifying live performance leads to a deal with Priority Records founded by Bryan Turner (Tate Ellington).

Ice Cube grows concerned about Easy-E’s relationship with Heller and the absence of contracts for the rest of the group.

He leaves and goes solo, sparking a bitter war of rhymes between the former band mates.

Ice Cube aligns himself with Suge Knight (R Marcus Taylor) and together they establish Death Row Records.

Meanwhile, Dr Dre also turns his back on Easy-E and N.W.A. and channels his energy into working as a producer for other acts including Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) and Tupac Shakur (Marcc Rose).

Straight Outta Compton might run to a holler short of two-and-a-half hours but Gray’s film has sufficient swagger to hold our attention.

Hawkins, Mitchell and Jackson Jr deliver accomplished performances as the sometimes deluded pioneers of a hip hop revolution.

Musical performances pulse with energy including a stand-off with police at a concert that culminates in a riot.

This might not be the whole uncomfortable truth, but what we are allowed to see hits the right notes.