Sunday 31 January 2016

NWA & Eazy-E: The Kings of Compton

With F. Gary Gray’s phenomenal biopic Straight Outta Compton taking the world by storm and grossing hundreds of millions of dollars, it was only natural that someone was going to slap something together to cash in on some of that sweet action. Directors Mike Corbera and Andre Relis clearly had this idea with NWA & Eazy-E: The Kings of Compton, a rather amateur and rushed production that serves as a companion to Straight Outta Compton but can’t really be truly enjoyed as its own film. Out now on DVD, I kinda feel like it should’ve just been a special feature on the Straight Outta Compton release…

The film tells the band’s entire story, and as the title suggests, has something of a focus on Eric Wright, the man we know and love as Eazy-E. Most importantly, it does feature contributions from the entire band although it’s debatable which (if any) were filmed for this documentary and which are just archive interviews – something which is most noticeable with the clearly dated interviews with the more successful faces like Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. The interviews clearly shot for the film are with people you’ve never heard of, whose stories you have to take at face value. Claiming to be ‘friends’ or ‘bodyguards’ of the legends, I guess we have to just believe everything we hear is true! But then I’ve always been a sceptic with these things - if you’re the right age and from the right part of the world, you could make anything up to appear on one of these cheaply made little films.

But the biggest issue with The Kings of Compton was the fact it is clearly unauthorised and thus doesn’t have access to the band’s music. Instead, the film has an almost constant soundtrack of instrumental generic hip-hop beats that you could probably find on some royalty free music website. For a documentary about one of the most famous bands of their genre, it seems like a HUGE part is missing when we don’t actually hear any of their work. The anecdotes still entertain, though – whether you believe them or not – and the true love and admiration for Eazy-E is felt in spades. And what interviews we do see with original members like Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are really interesting for a fan. But that’s not enough.

On the technical side of things, the low budget and presumably rushed nature of the film comes into play. The interviewees’ talking heads are rather poorly chopped and pasted onto more relevant backdrops, which is hugely distracting in some instances. And the pacing itself is a bit uncomfortable, made all the more irritating by the frequently repeated shit music. It’s hard to explain why The Kings of Compton is so underwhelming, other than the fact it just feels cheap and feels rushed. You can’t describe why but you’ll pick up on it. And you’ll be as disappointed as me – because the only reason you’d be watching this, is if you were a fan or someone who enjoyed the biopic film.

I can only assume The Kings of Compton came about because Straight Outta Compton was doing very well and someone thought “blimey, let’s get in on that!” and shat out a documentary in a couple of weeks. But this is the film’s downfall. As a fan of NWA, I was looking forward to this documentary and excited to see the true events I’d seen unfold in Straight Outta Compton. And I guess I got a bit of that with The Kings of Compton. But I’m also a fan of documentaries in general and couldn’t enjoy this poorly put-together rush job. If Universal Studios had teamed up with the folks behind this film and made an official companion piece of Straight Outta Compton, perhaps it would’ve been great. But as it stands, it’s an uncomfortable watch and one that just feels like a big missed opportunity.

NWA & Eazy-E: The Kings of Compton is an extremely disappointing 80 minutes that will just make you want to watch Straight Outta Compton again. 2/5.


Sam Love

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