Tag Archives: Police

“STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON” Review (✫✫✫✫)

The biography of the boyz in the hood. 

Perception is reality.

That’s a motto my newsroom lives and dies by. That’s also a truth that the boys from Straight Outta Compton live and die by. The only difference between us is that we experience it figuratively: they experience it literally.

We witness this early in Straight Outta Compton; as early as the first scene, in fact. Eric Wright, a.k.a. Eazy E (Jason Mitchell) confronts his cousins, who hasn’t paid him yet for the dope that he sold them a few weeks ago. Suddenly, like an Earthquake striking a town, the police ram into the house and start raiding it, arresting any African-American they can find in there. E slips out of the window and onto the roof just in time. He’s survived. For now.

We switch to a less tense scene. Andre Young, a.k.a. Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) is sitting on his bedroom floor, listening to classic funk and R&B records on his record player. Dre isn’t like the others in the streets. He doesn’t want to sling dope or be in a gang. He just wants to produce beats and music: a mozart to his suburbs.

His mother Verna (Lisa Renee Pitts), however, isn’t so enthused about his career path. He has a family and a daughter to care for, and he isn’t going to do it sitting on the floor listening to a record player, DJ’ing for a club at night. Dre, however, has his mind set. His future doesn’t lie in cleaning toilets and taking fast food orders. It lies in a DJ mixer and a pair of headphones. Dre knows what he needs to do.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Compton, O’Shea Jackson, a.k.a. Ice Cube (played by his own son, O’Shea Jackson Jr.) is sitting on a bus waiting to go to school. He sees the white kids in another school yard, all dressed in nice clothes, all with newly-bought school supplies and slick cars. Meanwhile, Cube sits in his creaky bus seat, looking at his clothes he probably wore yesterday, and his worn pencil and notepad, which is the only school supplies he has.

He takes his pencil and notepad and starts writing.

These three men, alongside Lorenzo Patterson, a.k.a. MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and Antoine Carraby, a.k.a. DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) make up the notorious hip-hop group N.W.A. The last two words stand for “With Attitude.” You can imagine what the letter “N” stands for.

Here is a film that, by any standards, is morally despicable. I go on and on in some of my reviews how movies are either incredibly violent, shamelessly sexual, or blatantly vulgar. This movie is all of those things and more. F-words fly out of their mouths like bullets in an uzi. Nude and scantily-clad women flock to these rappers in herds. In some scenes, they engage in sexual intercourse with many attendants watching, all with drugs and alcohol present. Police and gang violence is also present in the film, with crips, bloods, and officers shoving, punching, shooting, assaulting, and harassing each other in very violent, confrontational fashions.

Do not be fooled. This is not an easy film to watch, and if you don’t have a strong moral compass, you will get lost in the violent, sexual, promiscuous, profane, and blatantly explicit content you will find in this motion picture. If you hate hip-hop, you will hate Straight Outta Compton.

That being said, Straight Outta Compton is one of the most compelling films I’ve seen so far this year. The movie is more than the problems it poses. In fact, I’m happy that the film shows the content that it does in the film. It shows the destructive lifestyle these people experience, both on and off the streets, and they confront very real issues that hits them hard at home and at heart. The most significant issue that the movie covers is, of course, police violence. In one of my favorite scenes from the film, one of the police officers that was harassing these young men was not white, but black. My jaw dropped as he continued to berate these men as they were walking away: “Listen to your master!” he said, referring to their white manager.

What I love most about this movie, though, is that it isn’t biased. It isn’t pro-police or anti-police or pro-gangs or anti-gangs. It shows the ugliness of every side of Compton, whether it exists on a badge or on a bandana. Police cruelty is an obvious focus of the film, because it’s a recurring theme in hip-hop and rap culture. I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find at how much the film delved into hood culture and how damaging it is to these young men’s lives. The biggest instances of cruelty came from record producer Suge Knight, portrayed here by R. Marcus Taylor, whose business tactics include physical intimidation, humiliation, fear, confrontation, and violence. If the movie is anything to go by on how the real events transpired, Suge is a monster. He is painted as nothing less than the Godfather of suffering in this movie.

The parallels this movie draws on is ingenious, and director F. Gary Gray is exemplary in realizing the African-American struggle in a poverty-stricken neighborhood and in their aspiration to escape from it. Jackson does very well in portraying his father, and demonstrates the same snarl and attitude with such accuracy that it made me laugh at how similar he looked to his father. Hawkins is passionate and driven in portraying Dre, and while he physically looks smaller than the real-life Dr. Dre, his performance and his versatility in emotion more than makes up for lacking in physical similarities.

The greatest performance, however, comes from Jason Mitchell. In hindsight, he is the character with the most problems. He’s egotistical, he objectifies women, he betrays his friends, he resorts to violence, and he flourishes in the most destructive lifestyle as he bathes himself in a plethora of drugs, alcohol, and sex. In comparison to his N.W.A. companions, he is the most flawed character. But with his flaws comes his emotions to those flaws, his own moments of self-reflection that makes him think back at his decisions, his career, and the life that he’s trapped in. E goes through many emotions in this film, from fear, to anger, to happiness, to sadness, to heartbreak, and Mitchell portrays all of those emotions perfectly. If he doesn’t deserve the Academy Award for best supporting actor, he definitely deserves a nomination.

But at the heart of this movie is the struggle, the struggle that these five young men go through together, apart, individually, and inseparably. Their struggle being not having enough money. Their struggle being having too much money. Their struggle of not having a place in the world, and their struggle of what to do after establishing their place in the world. Like hip-hop, this movie will stir some major controversy for its content and for what messages it sends to its younger viewers. But it’s important to understand that this movie doesn’t set out to prove who is right and wrong. This movie sets out to show a reality. This movie sets out to show their reality.

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“22 JUMP STREET” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

Doing the same thing over again isn’t such a bad thing after all.

22 Jump Street is the exact same film 21 Jump Street was, but with one key difference: it’s self-awareness. While 21 Jump Street was just aimlessly spastic and immature, 22 Jump Street uses that same spasm and immaturity and chooses to make fun of itself for the sake of the audience. 22 Jump Street isn’t laughing with the audience: it’s laughing at the audience laughing at itself, and it is infinitely funnier because of that.

22 Jump Street takes place after Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) tells Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) that they’re about to go undercover at college. After a student died at the hands of a lethal new drug called WyFy, their job once again is to infiltrate the dealers, find the supplier and bring them to justice. Resuming their cover identities as brothers, they slowly try to adapt to college as they continue to search for the supplier who is providing for the whole operation.

“Waitaminute,” you might ask. “Isn’t this what happened in the first movie?” Yes, but like I said, the movie is more aware of itself than by just simply repeating what it did the first time around. This time, Tatum is the guy who is getting accepted and friendly with everyone around campus, while Hill is more or less left to go and sip wine with the art students.

Like I said, the film is on repeat from the plot with the first movie — similar characters, similar jokes, similar order of events. For Pete’s sake, even the run time is the same, with both films clocking in at about 1 hour and 50 minutes.

But like I always say, the repeat isn’t what matters. What matters is how they handle that repeat, whether it genuinely is a funnier, more refreshing take of the original rather than just a rehash. And let me tell you, even though it has Tatum and Hill in it, neither of which I’ve ever found particularly funny, I’ve never laughed harder.

These two guys are hilarious in the movie. Tatum is good as Jenko, a smug older jock who loves to drink beer, play football and show off his physique through physical feats that make me ashamed of my own body. Hill was even better. Whether he was getting into character as a Mexican mobster, trying to impress some girl or desperately trying to figure out how to drive a ferrari, he was clumsy, expressive and hilarious all at once, expertly becoming the likeable underdog needed for a film like this.

Great as Hill and Tatum are though, they are not the highlights of the film. The real stars of this movie are directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, both of whom recently directed The Lego Movie together. Lord and Miller, who also helmed the first film, seem to have a much more fleshed out idea of what they wanted Jump Street to be this time around. The first movie was just a loud, blatant action-comedy, shooting in every which way and direction with no clear aim or focus. Here, the aim couldn’t be more clear. From hearing bits of scathing dialogue — “We’re going to do the same thing all over again” from the captain — to the hilarious end credits spoofing every movie that had laughs and a gun, we can tell their goal with this was to slam the idea of sequels, to make fun of the problems that exist in them, then immerse themselves in that zone of making fun of themselves for the sake of our enjoyment.

I’ve had a complete blast with this movie. In every moment of the film I was either smiling, laughing my head off, or catching my breath, preparing myself for the many laughs to follow. I kept tossing around in my head whether I liked this movie or loved it, whether it was a truly definitive piece of comedy or just something fun to laugh at. I’ve concluded that it is both. 22 Jump Street is a big ball of action-packed comedic fun, a great sequel that has funny jokes, charismatic characters and wonderful self-irreverence. It’s an improvement upon the original in almost every way and will no doubt be a big problem to the studios once they realize they’re going to have to make a second sequel.

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“21 JUMP STREET” Review (✫1/2)

Two 30-year old cops pretending to be in high school.

21 Jump Street is a film that pretends to be a parody on action-comedies and instead collapses under its own pretension. It’s a silly, stupid, obnoxious film, a movie that feels like a kid poking a wet willy into your ear and refusing to stop because you’re laughing inexplicably for some reason. Is it possible to feel this annoyed, or for that matter, this violated? Apparently so. This is a movie that is okay with constant profanity, blatant stereotypes and unfunny penis jokes to the point where it feels like these cops are pretending to be in elementary rather than high school.

As much as they’d like to make you believe, 21 Jump Street is not an expansion of the original television show it was based on. This movie follows an entirely new duo, this one much more clumsier and haphazard than the Johnny Depp-Peter DeLuise relationship in the original show. Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are a dysfunctional pair of police officers that can’t shoot a gun or recite the miranda rights worth a damn. Schmidt plays the fat kid stereotype who can barely do a leg lift in the morning while Jenko is the strong-but-stupid stereotype that looks at answer choices on a test like they’re written in Chinese. Together, this lopsided duo plans to pursue a life of stopping crime as police officers. Little did they know that they’re starting duties included patrolling the town park, honking their horns and yelling at kids to not feed the ducks in the pond. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Well believe it or not, they mess even that up too. When arresting a gangster for cocaine possession, the gangster is eventually let go because he was not read his miranda rights. The duo is since transferred to this secret operation of undercover police work, located at a nice little chapel addressed at 21 Jump Street.

Sounds like a nice revisitation of the good old days with Johnny Depp, right? No. It isn’t. Whatever you hear about 21 Jump Street please hear this: that this is a complete deviation from the source material, and has been meat-processed through the unfortunate action-comedy formula into another recycled blockbuster.

Oh boy, where do I begin. First of all, let me start by looking at the most important part of the film: it’s leads. Hill and Tatum both served as executive producers for the film while Hill himself holds a story credit to the film. You would expect that, considering both of them have acted in comedies before this, that they would understand that most important element in comedies it the characters. With these two portrayals, they’re okay, but they’re only as good as their stereotypes will let them be. Jonah Hill is sheepish and clumsy while Channing Tatum is moody and stupid, and their characters don’t get much more expressive, or memorable, than that.

Oh no, they don’t go into an inch of smart or sincere territory, and their silly, childish interactions prove it. In one scene, Channing Tatum was whacking and tea-bagging Jonah Hill while he’s on the bed talking to a girl on the phone. In another, they’re fighting in the middle of a stage production while Hill is attached to a harness and Tatum is throwing plastic rocks and trees at him. Watching this duo makes me miss the smartly ironic and genuine chemistry that was shared in between comedic greats such as Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau in Grumpy Old Men, or Steve Martin and John Candy in Plains, Trains and Automobiles. That’s better than the hopelessly slapstick mess we have here, at least.

There is another issue we have at stake here: that this is not an adaptation, doing more disservice to itself by linking it to the source material that it was inspired by in the first place. The original television show was a crime drama about a group of teenagers trying to prove themselves as cops and as heroes. The movie is an action-comedy that deconstructs that idea and makes fun of it before killing it off at the start of the film’s climax, though I won’t say exactly how. All I will say is that fans of the show will be extremely disappointed by this new outing, and even if they won’t be, they’re going to have to let go an important part of the show in order to enjoy this new one.

None of that is really important though. The actors, the faithfulness, nothing. The most important question is this: did it make me laugh?

Kind of. Most of the time my face was as plain as a checker board, erroneously letting the stupidity and immaturity of the film rub off of me as I continued to tolerate its runtime. There were a few fun, clever moments in the film, but seeing them was as rare as Jenko getting a C on his chemistry exam.

I will also admit that I’m not much into raunchy humor, but why would I be? It’s cliche and cheap. It’s plastic, mundane and annoying, butting its head in the way of genuine, clever humor birthed by dialogue and satire, rather than the jumbled action and sex jokes we have to deal with in this movie. Plus, when your best joke involves a police officer shooting off a guy’s penis, and then watching him grab it with his mouth trying to reattach it, I think there’s something seriously wrong with this films humor.

I do predict that this movie will fare well with audiences though. Why? Because this is what people want, that’s why. When I ask for John Hughes, I get Adam Sandler. When I cry for Ridley Scott, I get Paul W.S. Anderson. When I praise Inception, I log onto box office mojo to discover that Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen grossed ten million more than it.

The more I think about this movie, the more frustrated I become. This movie has little to no redeeming factors, the phrase “it was fun” being its only flimsy crutch. There will be no doubt people who will defend it, and these are the people who also enjoy raunchy sex jokes, Channing Tatum’s mug and Jonah Hill’s clumsy failings. When other action comedies exist out there such as Scott Pilgrim and Zombieland, why on earth would I waste my time seeing this? If 21 Jump Street was supposed to assault me as much as it did, I wasn’t read my miranda rights.

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