Release Date: June 16, 2017
Director: Been Boom
Writer: Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, Steven Bagatourian
Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Hill Harper, Annie Ilonzeh, Lauren Cohan, Keith Robinson, Jamal Woolard, Dominic L. Santana, Cory Hardrict, Clifton Powell, Jamie Hector, Deray Davis, Chris Clarke, Ronald Brooks, Jarret Ellis, Erica Pinkett, Rayven Symone Ferrell, Chanel Young, Grace Gibson, Brandon Sauve, Josh Ventura, Michael Twombley, Hamid-Reza Benjamin Thompson
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 140 minutes
Production Company: Morgan Creek Productions, Program Pictures, Lionsgate
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
When you have an artist as popular as Tupac Shakur, it would be a great disservice to fans across the world to not tell his side of the story. He impacted so many lives throughout his reign, and still does twenty plus years after his untimely death. There was heavy debate over the last few years, until production started, on how his life should be told, and Lionsgate decided to take a crack at this legendary icon. The best parts of All Eyez on Me is the casting. At times, it felt as if the real-life persona of the characters were filling the roles on screen. Of course the soundtrack is solid, or you wouldn’t be reading this review, but the higher positive notes of the film are spread out and hard to find. This film can be divided into two sections, with one labeled as horrific, while the other being decent. The editing was the main, but not only, culprit that stopped this feature from being the true stand out it was originally meant to be. Yet it’s still able to focus on a few key elements that shine light on arguably one of the best rappers of all time.
The first half of the film was a giant mistake. Instead of it feeling like a film/biography, it was a dull interview with cut away snippets of Tupac’s greatest hits. There was no balance to the pacing either. As soon as a scene took off it would abruptly end, and then it would go back to the uninteresting interview. To see sections play out in its entirety would have been fulfilling, but the director, Benny Boom (Next Day Air), decided not to take this approach. Instead, while some aspects in the beginning had merit, the others had no real significance to move the story forward. The film should’ve chosen a style to stick with, but it was on the fence, switching back and forth and becoming jarring.
At least the role of Tupac (Demetrius Shipp Jr) was spot on. Surprisingly, this is the actor’s first role ever, and he held his own for the most part. The scenes where he was raising his voice to try to emit passion were a bit cringe worthy, but his overall performance was where it needed to be. The portrayal of Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham) was even better. She was scary on screen in an effective way, in the form of a respectable woman you need not ever double cross. Her scenes were brief, but stood out more than expected. There were other great performances for the roles of Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana) and Snoop Dog (Jarrett Ellis), but they still don’t hold a candle to the woman who brought Mr. Shakur into this world, played by Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead). The film started out focused on her and the world Tupac is from, yet the film didn’t do a well enough job to explain his transition into the man he’s well known for. In other words, in Pac’s early days, compared to the “Thug Life” persona he was labeled to live, he came across as a passive man that enjoyed collecting puppies. Then suddenly, he’s a militant activist through his words and actions. It was just another bad transition that left you wondering where the jump in character came from. That’s an incredibly important side to tell, but it was overlooked for whatever reason.
After the never-ending beginning, which felt like 57 short stories, were over, things started to elevate the film into a compelling story. I felt as if I was actually getting the story I knew, but from the full perspective of the main star. If this was done from the beginning we’d have a winner on our hands, but that’s not the case. It was always rumored that Tupac was constantly playing a tough guy role and didn’t fit those shoes, and one scene in particular painted that picture very well, with him engaging with undercover cops. I think the best part of the 2nd half of the film was addressing social issues that still plague our country today, greed, self-hate, and the constant injustices that plague the Black community. Whether this was done on purpose through the writing, or the words Tupac spoke decades ago were real, they spoke volumes to my heart and soul, and called for action in a productive nonviolent way.
Then again, the elephant in the room must be addressed, and that’s regarding the true account of what actually took place during Tupac’s rise and fall. While some scenes felt authentic and real, others were clearly movie magic to fill in supposed gaps in the plot. As an audience member, I don’t care whether the events that took place are good or bad. I just want the truth told in stylish fashion. Early on this was an epic fail, as if the director was practicing slow motion techniques. As a young man writing this review I was never a diehard Tupac fan, though I did appreciate his music, but if you were one of his passionate followers I’d imagine you’d walk out the theater in rage.