'All Eyez On Me'
Director: Benny Boom
Cast: Demetrius Shipp, Jr., Danai Gurira, Danai Gurai, Dominic L. Satana, Kat Graham, Jamal Woolard, Lauren Cohan, Jamie Hector, Cory Hardrict
A biopic on prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp, Jr.), this film raps-up a musical assay – from his early days in New York to his status as one of the world's most recognized and influential Black voices. And we get a sketchy glimpse of how Shakur's raw talent, powerful lyrics and revolutionary mindset establish him as a cultural icon with a legacy that continues to grow long after his death.
Tupaq Shakur was a larger than life character for the community that looked up to him as their leader and this film does touch on the essence of that being – unfortunately, it does not manage to make him come across as strongly influential to the community that idolized him. And that lack of definition mars the overall experience.
Benny Boom's 'All Eyez On Me' looks like it's been mined in a haze. The script doesn't feel tight, the music fills in the many gaps in story-telling and the performances don't give the impression of definitive craft. Other than his musical successes there's little reason here to believe in his greatness, so-to-speak. So if you havn't heard of Shakur, his music , his antecedents, his lyrics – you would be hard-pressed to consider him as someone allied with greatness. Boom's film does get the atmospherics right though - the underlying uneasiness, that charged feeling of violence waiting to erupt and the constant uncertainty of staying alive in a world marked by violence and aggression comes through quite strongly. The film has it's tense moments too but the drama of a valuable life lost in the underbelly of notoriety doesn't come through as strongly.
Shipp looks like Tupac, so half the battle may have been won, The rest of it though, is pretty shaky. Shipp's voice and swagger seem a little too casual. You never get the import or impact of Shakur's true personality with this imitation performance. Danai Gurira does a stirring job as Afeni Shakur but her role is just a little too sketchy to lend any weight to the film. Dominic Santana's Suge Knight doesn't quite hit the right note either.
'All Eyez on Me' looks at the largely superficial aspects of Tupaq's life. We never get a hook into what made him who he was. The music adds energy to the telling but it can never make-up for the lack of story elements that could have made this experience a great one.
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