Movie Review: ‘All Eyez on Me’
Director: Benny Boom
Cast: Demetrius Shipp, Jr., Danai Gurira, Annie Ilonzeh, Jamal Woolard, Kat Graham, Dominic L. Santana
Plot: Tupac Shakur was born to a Black Panther and grew up seeing the abuse of power by authority figures on the streets. Upon growing up he became a superstar rapper seeking to spread the truth about the African American experience.
Review: Going into this film I knew nothing about Tupac Shakur beyond his reputation as a musical icon. Upon leaving the cinema I certainly knew plenty of facts about the man but may not have a clear grasp on why he’s an revered as he is.
This is a long film, clocking in at about two and a half hours, and it never hangs onto a single thread. We begin with a decent enough framing device of Tupac (Shipp, Jr.) being interviewed whilst in prison and it would appear as though the movie is going to follow Tupac reflecting on key moments of his life. Then two thirds of the way through the film this structure gets dropped and the rest precedes in a more conventional manner. It certainly contributes to the feeling that this is three episodes of a mini-series stitched together. We have a sequence about his childhood, his rise to fame and notoriety and finally his time working with Death Row records. None of them particularly inform each other and many characters only exist in one part of the story.
The most interesting part of the story occurs in the final hour when Tupac is working with Death Row. It’s here that he gained his greatest success as an artist, we see a romantic interest develop and Tupac has his morals challenged. This could have been the main focus of the movie instead of coming at the end of a 90 minutes set up. The finale leaves the experience feeling a bit hollow, as the film is careful not to implicate anyone in being involved with Tupac’s death or what happened to the other people involved in his life.
Shipp, Jr., is solid in the lead role. It’s never easy taking on the persona of such a well-known and respected public figure. He never quite captures the energy of Tupac on stage but he’s good enough to carry the film. Most of the supporting cast are decent enough, even if they only get a slice of screen time each.
As a newcomer learning about the life of Tupac this was a pretty interesting story, but it may have been let down by the format. As we said before, it’s a long film to get through and director Boom doesn’t really pin down a clear story in the same way the inevitable comparison to Straight Outta Compton managed. Perhaps as a mini-series they could have fleshed out the characters and left a better impression.
Rating: SIX out of TEN