When you think about the icons of Hip Hop, Tupac ‘2Pac’ Shakur is definitely one name that would be on everyone’s list. It was surprising that we were yet to see a biopic on the life of 2Pac until now, given that we have seen fictitious depictions of the lives of stars like 50 Cent and Eminem, whilst also getting biopics on N.W.A and Notorious B.I.G (Biggie Smalls). Well 2Pac is finally getting his movie with the release of All Eyez on Me. Covering the life and death of 2Pac, including his rise to fame as an icon of Hip Hop, his involvement with Death Row Records and his incarceration. All Eyez on Me stars Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh, Dominic L. Santana, Jamal Woolard, Grace Gibson, Harold House Moore and Stefon Washington
It is incredible how well this movie was cast, given the fact Demetrius Shipp Jr. looks and sounds exactly like Tupac. He gives an incredible performance bringing to life the deceased rapper. Whilst his performance is fantastic it is the script and the direction that hurt the character, not making him likable. Danai Gurira is incredible as Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, a former Black Panther and major influence in Tupac’s life. Gurira is an incredible actress who people may know from The Walking Dead and will star in Black Panther next year. Most of the cast are fantastic but at the same time there were some interesting choices, such as the casting of Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg. With two fantastic talents, Corey Hawkins and Lakeith Stanfield playing these characters respectively in Straight Outta Compton I am unsure why they would not use them in this. In fact it actually sounded like they had Snoop Dogg do the voice work over Jarrett Ellis’ acting, and it did not look or sound great.
All Eyez on Me had a fascinating story to tell about the lives of one of the most influence musicians of the 90s. I personally did not know a lot about his life and how he became the icon that he was. The story was interesting but the way it was told was not. The first two acts of the movie are told through an interview Tupac did whilst in prison, having the story jump back and forth in time. After a while this falls flat as you can’t become invested in all the characters. It also means that some stories are not fleshed out as much as they should have been. Tupac was also involved in one of the most interesting music feuds, with the East Coast vs. West Coast rap beef, between Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records. The Notorious B.I.G vs. 2Pac. This was a defining moment of the story and it was barely touched in the movie, and when it was addressed it was done with such a bias towards Death Row that it made the beef unbelievable.
When you look at who is directing All Eyez on Me you realise why the movie turned out the way it did. Benny Boom is a music video director who has directed a handful of smaller films but nothing of any significance in comparison to the story of Tupac. This felt like a bad love letter to 2Pac from a below average filmmaker and storyteller. An example of poor filmmaking is the rape scene. The movie goes out of its way to make Tupac looks innocent in the whole ordeal. I am not taking sides in this but from a filmmaking stand point this was pretty poor. The film makes it look like he was set up and completely innocent of any wrongdoing, a product of the police targeting him. This was a common theme throughout All Eyez on Me, where Tupac never did anything wrong, it was always someone else targeting him, setting him up to fail. It was because of this that the character becomes unlikeable in the end.
It doesn’t matter what the truth is, it just matters who is first. If you watch Notorious the story is told from the perspective of Biggie Smalls, though it still showed his strengths and his flaws. It was still biased but it showed scenes I am sure that he would not have been proud of. All Eyez on Me was so biased it refused to show Tupac is any negative light. They made him look like everyone wanted to sue him; he was set up for rape and he had nothing to do with the East Coast West Coast beef. His mother says to him “The are going to give you the tools you need to destroy yourself,” and the movie keeps blaming ‘them’ for the tools not Tupac for his actions. The Hip Hop beef was the one thing that was not really highlighted well in this movie. Notorious came out first so the truth they told favoured The Notorious B.I.G and Sean Combs with All Eyez on Me swinging to the other side of the pendulum to favour Tupac.
All Eyez on Me was an extremely flawed, mildly entertaining film that offered an interesting insight into the life of an icon, however truthfully accurate it might be. I do not believe it will stand up as a great Hip Hop Biopic and coming off Straight Outta Compton I am probably more disappointed by this film.
See it if you are a fan of Hip Hop but not a fan of history. Do not expect Straight Outta Compton or even 8 Mile though. If you are not a Rap fan or have little interest in Tupac, I would safely say give this a miss.
All Eyez on Me scores 4.5/10
Thanks for reading my review of All Eyez on Me. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.