All Eyez on Me movie review: This 2pac biopic is a compilation of videos with very little story
If you grew up listening to Tupac Shakur, you’re going to be disappointed with the biopic All Eyez On Me. If you merely knew about Tupac but are generally unaware of his songs and what they stand for, you’re going to be disappointed with this movie. If you’re looking for a hip hop biography in the vein of Straight Outta Compton, you’re still going to be disappointed. With no clear target audience that will be entertained, this is a difficult film to recommend.
Tupac is a giant name, and he deserved a film better than this one. Directed by Benny Boom, who is known for music videos for 50 Cent, David Guetta and other such big artists, the film never manages to engage on a level that Tupac did with his songs. In fact the film plays out like a string of music videos, with bits of story sprinkled, to no lasting effect.
A biography tends to chronicle familiar beats such as humble beginnings, an opportunity, a rise, the descent into sex, drugs and disillusionment and the eventual fall – but a good biography transcends these cinematic clichés with either new ways to explore them, or pure cinematic heft. All Eyez On Me unfortunately tracks those familiar elements like a checklist, not revealing anything that wasn’t already known about the legendary hip hop artist.
The biggest focus here is the frenemy relationships between Tupac, Suge Knight and Biggie Smalls – but there’s a lot of smoke and no fire – the conflicts don’t exude any power and the drama feels like something out of a bad TV movie than a motion picture. Even worse is the supposedly platonic friendship between Tupac and Jada Pinkett (who would later become a movie star and Will Smith’s wife). The film tries to shoehorn a social issue with Tupac’s mother being a blacktivist, and the internal conflict that Tupac has with whether to stand up for his community, but that too is weakly executed. The censorship by Mr Nihalani doesn’t help matters – with swear words muted listening to Tupac’s songs feels like eating a burger without the patty.
Demetruis Shipp, who plays Tupac looks a lot like the guy he’s playing, but falls completely flat during the dramatic moments and fares even worse in the sentimental ones. The few bits of entertainment come from the music montages where you see him belting out his legendary songs, but the film never manages to capture the infectious energy of better films of its genre.
The 90’s captured a whole zeitgeist of music and the rivalry between the East and West coast rappers, there’s a whole history behind the movement and the film wastes a huge opportunity to tap into a time so crucial to both America and music. Perhaps a Netflix mini series would be a better avenue to explore the chunk of time in greater detail. In fact the hologram of Tupac performing at Coachella a few years ago was far more interesting than this film – you could head over to YouTube to watch an icon digitally come back to life.