This is being released on what would have been Tupac’s 46th birthday, and the fact that he’s been gone so long but is still having an impact on the music world is mind-blowing.
“All Eyez on Me” is the long delayed and long overdue biopic about the rapper Tupac Shakur. Demetrius Shipp Jr., whose father worked with Tupac on one of his albums, plays the late artist as Kat Graham, Dominic L. Santana, Hill Harper and Danai Gurira also star. Benny Boom directs.
The behind-the-scenes stories of what it took to get this film made are interesting enough to be a movie on their own. It went through several directors, including Antoine Fuqua and John Singleton, as well as a handful of legal trouble and lawsuits, including pushback from Shakur’s mother. However it is finally hitting the big screen and while it is no “Straight Outta Compton,” and one could argue it’s not even that well made at all, there is something about “All Eyez on Me” that I just found enjoyable.
I loved “Straight Outta Compton” so when they announced that Tupac was getting a biopic it only seemed natural and I was intrigued. The trailers for this were a bit of a mixed bag, with half being intense and gripping while the other half felt like they were stitched together by a film student and the finished product is a lot like that, too. There are parts that are engaging, interesting and worthy of Tupac’s legacy; however just as often the film is a sloppy mess that doesn’t know how to get from scene to scene.
As the lead role Demetrius Shipp Jr. shines. He is a spitting image of Tupac, to the point it is almost eerie, and he does a good job (for the most part) of capturing that charismatic smile that Shakur had, as well as some of the more emotionally heavy scenes with his mother.
The rest of the cast do solid work, too, but Shipp is really the only one with enough screen time to be considered a main character. Others flow in-and-out of the film depending on what the current scene requires, with Tupac’s friends Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham) and The Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard, reprising his role from 2009’s “Notorious”) showing up here and there. Dominic L. Santana takes over the role of Suge Knight from “Compton’s” Ryan Marcos Taylor and he does alright. The man has the large frame, beard and scowl that Knight had, however he never captures the same intimidating sense that Taylor showed in 2015.
The film also has done nice production design and set pieces, and does a good job putting you into the 90s, colorful, puffy clothing and all.
The scenes that work best in the film are when Tupac is on stage, which makes sense because director Benny Boom is best known for his music videos. I constantly found myself nodding my head and moving my feet in my seat, and I forgot just how many hits Tupac had that I was familiar with; even critics of the film as a whole won’t be able to deny the powerful pleasures of its musical moments.
But when the film isn’t focused on Tupac’s musical career is where the real faults lie. The first half is lazily told through flashbacks as Tupac talks to a reporter while in jail for sexual assault (a topic the film brushes over and almost villainizes his victim for) and things are really choppy. Boom wouldn’t know subtlety if it hit him in the back of the head and he makes sure you know exactly how every character is feeling at every moment and even puts location and date stamps at the start of near every scene, because he’s not a strong enough visual director to get either point across on his own.
The ending is also cheesy and over-the-top and knocked my enjoyment down a little bit, just because it doesn’t tug at you as much as it should and Boom and the screenwriters, again, take such a by-the-numbers and straightforward approach that it’s just indolent.
At two hours and 20 minutes, “All Eyez on Me” does not justify its runtime and had it been cut down to a solid 120 minutes then I think this could have been a genuinely good movie. That being said I still enjoyed a lot of it, almost like it is a TV movie spiritual sequel to “Straight Outta Compton,” and I think if you’re willing to overlook some of the lazier execution and excessive runtime then there’s enough here to like.
Critics Rating: 6/10