Hip-Hop artist and actor Tupac Shakur was such a controversial and multifaceted individual that any rendition of his life in cinematic form is bound to be divisive. So far, the film All Eyez On Me, that claims to be the untold story of Tupac Shakur, has been fairly entertaining for some and completely unsatisfying for others. The truth is somewhere in between. The film isn’t completely horrible, but it’s definitely not as good as it should be. We merely get the broad strokes of Tupac’s life and we never get too deep into who the man really was.
Director Benny Boom, who cut his teeth directing hip-hop music videos, does a capable job helming this project. Visually, he creates an urban hiphop aesthetic that we rarely see on the big screen. The colors, fashion, and set peices of the 1990’s hip hop scene are authentic and portrayed accurately. Boom also captures the frenetic energy of hiphop during the concert and party scenes in the film.
Demetrius Shipp Jr. doesn’t quite have the ferocity that Tupac Shakur exhibited, but his performance has plenty of heart. Shipp’s resemblance to Tupac is uncanny. His performance is not a bad one, but it could have used just a little more substance. For a beginning actor though, he does a great job of taking us from Tupac’s high school innocence to his last days as a jaded gangster rapper. Duplicating the charisma and vitality of Tupac would be a challenging feat even for an experienced actor. However, Demetrius Shipp Jr. is an exciting up and coming talent to look out for. Danai Guriri also shines dramatically in her role as Afeni Shakur.
Overall, All Eyez On Me is more of a series of snapshots giving us glimpses into the life and career of Tupac Shakur. For the fan, it’s exciting to see certain iconic images and sounds on the screen for the first time. Shakur’s music is just as compelling now as it was in the 90’s. The film does take us from the days of the revolutionary Black Panther Party to the shady underworld of Death Row Records. Again, we get the broad strokes from different moments in Tupac’s career, but the details are missing. For example, the creation of “Thug Life” was very important to Tupac, but in the film, he rarely verbalizes its meaning and political relevance. Anyone looking for an indept character study of who Tupac Shakur really was and some of the things he believed will be disappointed.
We do get great insight into Tupac’s relationship with his mother, his love life, and the shifty characters that may have been a bad influence in his life. All Eyez On Me works best as a superficial but entertaining look at the life and music of Tupac Shakur, and it’s worth watching as a cautionary tale about a conflicted and talented individual with revolutionary ambitions, who’s talents were taken advantage of by a corrupt environment.