The musical biopic has proved time and again to be an immensely tricky genre of film to tackle. Bound by historical accuracy and the requirement to hit more noted checkpoints (namely, big songs, albums and concerts) than most other semi-factual tales that find their way to the silver screen, it's been too much of a burden to bear for many.
F. Gary Gray's Straight Outta Compton is the latest to take up the unenviable challenge. Telling the story of Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella, Compton struggles to overcome the same hurdles which have seen predecessors fall, despite only tackling a relatively short time period.
That isn't to say the film is a failure by any means. Gray's direction does a fantastic job of conveying the frenetic atmosphere of South Central LA and beyond on the N.W.A tour bus. The performances bring the younger selves of the group's members back to life, thanks in no small part to the involvement of Ice Cube, Dre and Eazy-E's widow as producers.
Despite the film's hefty 147 minute runtime, there are moments which feel rushed, relationships and even major characters who feel underdeveloped. This would be forgivable if these aspects were sacrificed for a greater good, but for every set piece - and there are some fantastic ones - there's a piece of awkward shoehorning, name dropping merely for the sake of it.
Two more unfortunate features of the biopic tend to be oversentimenality and a rose-tinted view of its subject, and Straight Outta Compton falls foul of one while steering admirably clear of the other. A symptom of the rushed nature of parts of the film is a certain detachment between character and audience, which then make the films few emotional touchpoints feel forced.
However, despite the close involvement of those depicted in the film, Straight Outta Compton isn't afraid of portraying its heroes in an unfavourable light, albeit while skimming over some of their more grave misdemeanours. Equally, the band's manager Jerry Heller is never presented as the cartoon villain he could so easily have been.
The N.W.A and West Coast rap story is so remarkable that it's unlikely that Straight Outta Compton will be the final cinematic word on the story - John Singleton has long been mooted to be working on a Tupac biopic - but as a first run at its subject matter, it's a riveting attempt that overcomes some lackadaisical writing and character development to deliver the knockout blows where it truly matters.