Demetrius Shipp Jr. delivers a ferocious performance in the lead role but is hampered by All Eyez On Me‘s disjointed and bloated narrative.
All Eyez On Me is an attempt at telling the life story of rapper Tupac Shakur. Director Benny Boon uses Shakur’s incarceration stemming from his posse being charged with raping a young groupie as a narrative device to frame this film’s story. While in prison, Tupac agrees to a series of interviews with a journalist (played by Hill Harper). The reporter covers everything from his mother’s involvement in the Black Panther movement, his dad’s arrest for armed robbery, and his big break with the band Digital Underground. The film goes off in a different direction when Mr. Shakur is released from prison and signs with Death Row Records. We see the influence of Suge Knight on his career as Tupac quickly ascends to the top once again only to see his life tragically ended at the age of 25.
Casting Demetrius Shipp as Tupac was absolutely a great decision. He was able to capture the intensity of the young performer and embody the intelligent man that he was. Anytime he was on stage performing or in the midst of creating Tupac’s sound in the studio; I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. His performance was one of the best of the summer. It’s a shame it was wasted on a film this rife with issues.
Jarret Ellis nailed his role of playing Snoop.
Danai Gurira was tremendous as Afeni Shakur. Gurira was able to project strength towards others as she fought for equality and love for her children even when she was deep in the throes of addiction.
What Didn’t Work
This type of project should not have ended up in Director Benny Boom’s hands. While I understand that other directors had quit this project, a biography of such a controversial pop culture icon shouldn’t have fallen in the lap of a director whose best work involved music videos. Boom’s simply not a story teller. He can capture the best in a music performance which is why Shipp’s performance stood out. If you give this film to a Spike Lee, Ryan Cooger, F. Gary Gray, or John Singleton, then the result could have been entirely different.
The film seemed very concerned with covering every single part of Shakur’s life rather than attempting to develop a story for the audience. Writers Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, and Steven Bagatourian appeared to craft this narrative by Googling Tupac. Yes, we understand that his mother was a member of the Black Panther party but how did that shape his thinking? We know that going to prison changed Tupac but how did that impact his personal life? The film is extremely thin and plays out more like an episode of Behind the Music than any feature film.
Apparently, Jada Pinkett and Tupac went to the same high school in New York and rather than exploring this relationship they turned into a will they/won’t they narrative. Very melodramatic and nothing more.
All Eyez On Me is a perfect example of how having the perfect lead doesn’t guarantee a great final product. Having the correct team of director and writers is often what makes or breaks a film. F. Gary Gray didn’t just have scene upon scene of how the members of N.W.A. grew up; he told the story of how racial injustice impacted the crew. Audiences already know who Tupac and N.W.A. are so, please tell us something new. Where’s the untold story? In Straight Outta Compton, we somewhat saw the untold story. In All Eyez On Me, what we got was shameful. The great performances in the film are wasted on a disjointed narrative that wants to tell us everything but fails to do so. Everyone is well aware of what Tupac did during his career but why should I be motivated to spend money on your version of events? The answer is that no one should as All Eyez On Me is a complete waste of time and an insult to Tupac’s legacy.