The lives of famous musicians and/or musical groups have traditionally been fodder for the Hollywood biopic treatment (James Brown in Get on Up being a recent example) – and next is N.W.A., with the upcoming Straight Outta Compton. Universal Pictures, which (along with Legendary) is distributing the movie, teased the release of the first red band trailer during last night’s 2015 Grammy Awards show.
Said NSFW Straight Outta Compton preview is now online, along with the official poster. The red band trailer begins with black and white footage of real-life former N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre take a trip down memory lane through their home turf of Compton (in south Los Angeles county, California). Thereafter a more conventional trailer plays out, teasing the formation and rise to fame of N.W.A., which began in the mid-1980s.
What Straight Outta Compton footage is shown here focuses less on the individual members of N.W.A. – with O’Shea Jackson a.k.a. Ice Cube (portrayed by his real-life son, O’Shea Jackson Jr.) getting the most screen time of the group – and more on how the trend-setting hip-hop/rap group tapped into the zeitgeist in Compton in the ’80s, as they gave “an explosive voice to a silenced generation” (as the official synopsis for the film puts it).
It didn’t take long for N.W.A.’s first brush with controversy for related reasons, though the Straight Outta Compton red band preview zeroes in on the group’s response to police brutality (like the Rodney King beating in the early ’90s) and criticisms that the work glamorizes the gangster lifestyle. The group’s song “F*** tha Police” is featured in part here unfiltered, which largely accounts for the trailer’s red-band rating.
Straight Outta Compton‘s cast includes Corey Hawkins (Non-Stop) as Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell (Contraband) as Eazy-E, Aldis Hodge (Leverage) as MC Ren, and Neil Brown Jr. (Fast & Furious) as DJ Yella, along with Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti as N.W.A. manager Gerald “Jerry” Heller. Relative newcomer Jonathan Herman penned the most recent script draft, while helming duties on the project were handled by F. Gary Gray – who famously directed the real Ice Cube twenty years ago in Friday.
Gray, judging by this early trailer footage, has put together an N.W.A. biopic that effectively blends the aesthetics of a gritty character drama with more stylized visual storytelling, thanks in part to the cinematography by Darren Aronofsky’s frequent collaborator, Matthew Libatique (Black Swan, Noah). The question that remains to be answered, though, is if Straight Outta Compton‘s narrative can present N.W.A’s story in a manner that doesn’t just resort to using the cliché Hollywood musician biopic formula.
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Straight Outta Compton opens in U.S. theaters on August 14th, 2015.
Source: Universal/Legendary Pictures