Jeffrey Jackson


Straight Outta Hollywood

  • September 5, 2015
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First things first: Straight Outta Compton is fantastic. In case you’ve been in a biosphere for the past month, The F. Gary Gray film depicts the formation, rise and kinda-fall of gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A.— notably Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E. If the subject matter isn’t your cup of tea, do yourself a favor, put that cup down and go see it. It’s the best film ensemble performance since American Hustle and a truly compelling story.

But I have one complaint.

I just wish that somehow, this edgy, hip, and very 2015 movie could’ve found a way to avoid a clich√© as old as film itself, namely: When a character coughs, they’re a goner. (Not a spoiler alert. Even if you don’t know that, in reality, one of the main characters dies of a dread disease, then you’d have to be dumb as a box of hammers to not see it coming.)

The late, great Roger Ebert had a term for these tired old chestnuts: “fruit carts” — referring to the film cliche of the curbside fruit vendor which exists solely to be crashed into, his wares strewn everywhere during a chase scene that’s just around the corner. Large plate of glass carried by two workers in coveralls across a city street? Get ready for the crash. And just like Ali MacGraw in reel two of Love Story, you know that when one of our boyz n the hood hacks up a hairball in Straight Outta Compton, he’s toast. Forget all the gunplay; no way he’s surviving that throat tickle.

Really? There’s no other way to foreshadow serious illness? How about the shiverin’ sweats? Blurred vision? Flatulence? I’m not even sure coughing is a symptom of the disease depicted. But it’s a disappointing shortcut for a talented creative team in the act of making a film as potentially seminal as this one.

★★★★ 4 stars. A half-star deducted for some murky storytelling wherein some important details of the group’s financial dealings are sluffed over. Another half-star deducted for coughing.

Oh, and a prediction: An Oscar nomination for Jason Mitchell and his cough.

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