‘ALL EYEZ ON ME’ captures the spirit but not the nuance of Tupac Shakur


James Cole Clay // Film Critic

Rated R, 140 minutes.
Director: Benny Boom
Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr.Danai Gurira, Kat Graham and Dominic L. Santana

Tupac Shakur’s music told many stories about how he viewed America. His voice was heard throughout his short but prolific career that still carries weight today, 20 years after he was shot to death.

There’s no denying his greatness as an artist and the impact he had on American culture. For better or worse, it was only a matter of time before his story would be immortalized in the form of a broad-stroked biopic.

Famed music video director Benny Boom helms ALL EYEZ ON ME, a fragmented and lackluster, albeit thoroughly entertaining piece of filmmaking that’s far less exuberant than its subject.

The tagline for the film reads “The Untold Story of Tupac Shakur,” yet all the narrative beats covered could be found reading Wikipedia, or in a Youtube session. The story of rapper 2Pac is far too compelling to resist, especially for a fan of his music looking for an escapism in the form of music history. For those looking for a more visually stimulating look at Shakur’s life, the under seen 2PAC RESURRECTION will scratch that itch. The look and feel of that documentary was a vibrate look into the mind of a tortured yet brilliant poet.

Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tupac Shakur in All Eyez on Me (Photo Courtesy of Universal)

It had to be the right person to capture the physical embodiment of Shakur and newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. does just that. From his uncanny facial features, to his on-stage dancing. Shipp has the pedigree to bring the multi-hyphenate artist to life, even if the performance isn’t quite as nuanced as the mind of Shakur. At no point does Shipp’s performance lose its authenticity, however.

Boom’s adaptation isn’t to the point of schlock, but he’s definitely fishing with a wide net. The cradle to a grave story is tired and needs a fresh spin, or incredible characterization of its subjects to provide any lasting power. Yet, many of its side characters are left with nothing to do other than be in service to the main character, which is an inherent flaw of the self-serving biopic. Shakur did have a unique outlook on the world, some would say he cared too much, which the film highlights beautifully at times with Shakur dropping wisdom to his millions of fans, family and close confidants. We know what became of Shakur as he was sadly gunned down, but the fact that we’re watching a ghost for the 140-minute runtime (20 minutes too long) doesn’t hurt the impact of the film, even though it does venture into hagiography.

As a fan of this era of music, ALL EYEZ ON ME will, without a doubt, have value to a viewer — and even though this is a hugely flawed film, this man’s life will forever be fascinating to observe and cherish. 20 years after his murder, nobody knows who killed Shakur. It could have been a conspiracy, but more than likely it was gang violence — a role the film depicts he wasn’t afraid to play. For much of the film we see Shakur morph into a person he thought he should be, but we see the softer side of his life. Maybe this wasn’t truly a role he wanted to play.

Grade: B

ALL EYEZ ON ME opens Friday (6/16).

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.