“All Eyez on Me” stars Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham, Lauren Cohen, Hill Harper, and Danai Gurira. Released on June 16, 2017, the film chronicles the rise and fall of hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur.
The film is directed by Benny Boom, who also directed Next Day Air and the direct-to-DVD sequel, S.W.A.T.: Firefight. If someone were to ask me who Tupac is, I would honestly say that I remember 'California Love', and that’s about it. Tupac Shakur was among the greats in hip-hop, mostly because of his influential, yet controversial, themes in his songs that reflect on violence and hardship in inner cities. You know, like N.W.A. More than 20 years after his tragic death, we have officially gotten a theatrical adaptation of Tupac’s life, but is it the one that we’ve been looking for, and more importantly, is it as great as Straight Outta Compton?
The film’s story consists of a series of events that showcases Tupac’s legacy, including his childhood, his superstardom, his imprisonment, and his time at Death Row Records, all leading up to his death in 1996. It’s like reading a part of the hip-hop history book, without the reading part. While it has something that will impress long-time fans of Tupac, the same cannot be said for those who are unfamiliar with the artist or, more importantly, those who love great biopics. The film is so focused on showing his popularity and the controversial issues that he went through that they lost track of developing him as a person. Because of that, I failed to have a strong connection to him and his relationships to those around him compared to how I connected to the members of the N.W.A. in Straight Outta Compton. This is something that director Benny Boom tried to accomplish, but somehow, the final result came up far below than what he’s going for. They had a message to tell. They put it in their back pocket for safekeeping as the film went on, but for some reason, they lost it. I don’t know how, but they lost that poor thing big time. It also doesn’t help when they’re trying to phone in the emotional depth between the characters, whether it’s the relationships or the realistic brutal moments or even how they present the death of Tupac. However, I did manage to enjoy some of the performances, and the cinematography was handled very well. Newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. was a proper standout as he successfully breathed life into the artist himself, and Danai Gurira was really feisty and compelling as Tupac’s mother.
Overall, “All Eyez on Me” had my sights on Shipp Jr.’s amazing performance as Tupac Shakur, but the same cannot be said for the film’s poor portrayal of the hip-hop artist’s career. It tried way too hard to offer that same experience as Straight Outta Compton, but instead, it wound up being a mini-series that was trimmed down to a two-hour-and-20-minute soulless disappointment. As an event for long-time Tupac fans, it was a good effort, but as an ordinary biopic, all I can say is that it had potential. It…had…potential, yet it didn’t take full advantage of that. I would probably recommend it to those who are familiar with Tupac’s career, but if you’re a fan of biopics, you’re better off watching N.W.A. in Straight Outta Compton.