All Eyez on Me

 

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An able but superficial biopic which avoids problematic questions about the life of Tupac Shakur.

 
All Eyez on Me

Demetrius Shipp Jr as 2Pac

 

I find it remarkable that a substantial number of user reviews of this film to be found on the IMDb website contain such a barrage of hostility and hatred. That does not mean that I regard All Eyez on Me as a film of distinction - indeed this biopic of the famed rapper and actor Tupac Shakur strikes me as a superficial piece. In theory, though, it's a work which should have had wide appeal for Shakur's admirers, those who regard him as being an icon both for his music and for his standing as a figure of political protest. Some such have defended it but it has clearly split opinion. For myself I had hoped for a work closer to the spirit of Nick Broomfield's 2002 documentary Biggie and Tupac with its questioning and investigative approach as it dissected the issues around the killings of Shakur and rival rapper Biggie Smalls.

 

Tupac Shakur is surely a controversial figure. Quite apart from violent incidents in his personal life and a spell in jail on a sexual charge (albeit one that fell short of the rape that was claimed), Shakur was attacked at various times over the fact that his lyrics were not only misogynistic but inciteful of violence against the police. There are enough examples of the police in America harassing black men, never mind killing them, for us to know that claims of victimisation can be all too valid, but I felt that All Eyez on Me (the title taken from one of Shakur's hit albums) was too ready to give him the benefit of each and every doubt, leaving us with the impression of a too one-sided portrait.

 

Admittedly I approached this film as an innocent being ignorant of Tupac Shakur other than from the material within Broomfield's film, but when I checked up on the details of his life as set out on the internet I gained the impression that the movie, however slanted in interpretation, was basically observant of the facts. So how come those extensive extreme comments, seemingly from fans, expressing such anger with the film? Even at a length of around 140 minutes, the film has to pick and choose over what it includes and inevitable omissions or simplifications may anger some, but one finds too accusations of poor storytelling and bad direction. In fact Benny Boom, who took over the direction of All Eyez on Me, is a filmmaker better known for his music videos, but he does a good job here and really does keep things on the move even if the film is rather too long. But earlier the once-feted John Singleton was to have made the film and walked out, a fact which possibly put some viewers in the mood to dislike the movie even before seeing it.

 

The lead actors are Demetrius Shipp Jnr as Tupac, Duani Gurira as his mother and Kit Graham as the actress Jada Pinkett Smith who early on became a friend of Tupac's. The performances are acceptable rather than special but good enough for the film to work on its limited but chosen level. Its worst fault in my eyes is its emotional manipulation (as witnessed by the use of a carol to underline violence by the FBI during a raid at Christmas and the obvious build-up to the murder scene). But, for whatever reasons, many people have had far worse things to say about the film than that.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Duani Gurira, Kat Graham, Hill Harper, Annie Ilonzeh, Jamal Woolard, Keith Robinson, Lauren Cohan, Dominic L Santana, Jamie Hector, Jarrett Ellis, Cory Hardrict.

 

Dir Benny Boom, Pro L.T. Hutton, David Robinson and James G. Robinson, Screenplay Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian, Ph Peter Menzies Jnr, Pro Des Derek R. Hill, Ed Joel Cox, Music John Paecano, Costumes Francine Janison-Tanchuck.

 

Codeblack Entertainment/Morgan Creek Productions/Program Pictures/Voltage Pictures-Lionsgate.
139 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 30 June 2017. Cert. 15.