All Eyez on Me
All Eyez on Me – A wholly uninspiring account of Tupac Shakur’s life and works
Movie Review by Sreedevi Jayarajan (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
For fans of Tupac Shakur, the documentary fails to evoke emotions of any sort. On the other hand, those unfamiliar with his works will go away with a half-baked understanding of the rap legend and what he left the world with.
“All Eyez on Me” is the 2017 documentary bio-pic of rap artist Tupac Shakur who died 20 years ago in a drive-shoot out that remains a mystery to date. In his 25 years, Shakur, emerged as a force to be reckoned with, breaking all records in the history of rap with his “Thug Life” and fiery lyrics that spoke for blacks in America. To depict Shakur’s life and works, would require a huge deal of talent, tact and inspiration which was sadly missing in the film.
It seemed that Director Benny Boom was bent upon cramming in as much information about the artist as was possible, all the while forgetting to inject soul into his film. He covers all moments that were instrumental in shaping Shakur – his childhood in a family of Black Panthers, his friendship with Jada Pinkett, his move to California from New York, his stint with theatre and acting and most importantly his collaboration with many record labels – especially Death Row Records towards the last part of the film. However, it fails to capture the artist’s greatest asset – his mind, his conflicting character and his inner workings during his music stint. The audience gets a sincere compilation of the events of Shakur’s life, but one which is wholly absent of what went inside his head during these events.
All sequences last only a few minutes; everything is a rush. Pivotal moments like when Shakur convinces his white studio producers about the need for songs like “Brenda’s baby” to make Black voices heard are condescended to 2-3 clichéd lines and wrapped up.
The dialogues in their desperate attempts to be hard-hitting, diffuse into clichés and downright childish lines, adding to the artificiality of the film. The same goes for the sound track, with the film trying to cover as many of Shakur’s greatest hits but forgetting to narrate how some of the most powerful songs of his came to be.
The only hint of authenticity to the movie is with actor Demetrius Shipp Jr’s (who plays Shakur) uncanny resemblance to Tupac. However, his acting coupled with the tacky dialogues helped sink the film further. His was a sincere duplication of Shakur’s mannerisms, with zero enhancements and a shocking lack of insight into the rapper’s mind and thoughts. Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother (played by Danai Gurira) seems to be the only character that has been played with some authenticity, helping create some great emotional moments between mother and son in the film.
Perhaps the strongest argument against the film is its absolute lack of nuances. The entire plot basically lionizes the rapper with ample justifications of many of his flaws and reckless actions. Even if everything could be brushed aside, the downright one-sided depiction of the 1994 sexual assault case against Shakur portrayed here is what brings the film to its doom.
In essence, it takes more than a sincere compilation of his life events to bring out the legend that is Tupac Shakur. And only a director who understood the artist in his entirety would be able to bring out an authentic portrait of this artist. Even that would not be possible without a struggle and huge amounts of inspiration.
• Danai Gurira as Afeni Shakur
• Demetrius Shipp Jr. casting as Tupac
• Sound track
• Editing of crucial scenes
• Uninspiring direction
• One – sided depiction of Tupac