All Eyez on Me, 2017.
Directed by Benny Boom.
Starring Demetrius Shipp Jr, Jamal Woolard, Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Jamie Hector, Lauren Cohan, Dominic L. Santana, Grace Gibson, Hill Harper, Annie Ilonzeh, and Harold House Moore.
Tells the true and untold story of prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur.
Brace yourselves, there are going to be a lot of comparisons to the recently released N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, as Tupac Shakur study All Eyez on Me is basically how to not make a movie of this genre. It’s not just underwhelming, the movie is an unmitigated disaster. We’re talking so bad that the much talked about hologram of Tupac will probably gain self-awareness the next time it’s activated to denounce this film as straight garbage.
In the first 10 minutes (this is not a typo, I did not mean 100) All Eyez on Me (directed by music video helmer Benny Boom) the movie jumps through four different time periods including two decades. It’s as if the writers gave Benny a cliff notes version of the story mentioning all of the important details of the controversial ghetto poet’s life, and instead of fleshing anything out to get to the core of a very complicated mind, he constructed individual scenes that say nothing about the real life figure. As Tupac becomes a young adult the time jumps begin to slow down, but sadly the storytelling does not get any better.
Here is the most important and drastic difference between All Eyez on Me and Straight Outta Compton; one of them unflinchingly powers through dark material with raw force using the rappers and their accompanying lyrics to say something socially relevant about the time depicted that still rings true today, generating, even more, interest in the lives and music at hand. The other utterly fails at simply establishing a place or time, and goes through the motions of the highs and lows. Bafflingly, the movie that is over 150 minutes (and even loses no momentum whatsoever even with an extended director’s cut) never loses steam, whereas All Eyez on Me is 140 minutes but seemingly lasts the entire tragically short life of Tupac himself. I rarely, rarely ever do this, but at one point I did check the time; I was 84 minutes into the movie and completely flabbergasted that I wasn’t somewhere near the two-hour mark.
If you don’t know this you have been living under a rock for 20 years, but Tupac encounters quite a few near-death experiences (multiple gunshot wounds) and even dies at the end. Somehow, even the direction in these scenes also manage to carry no weight or emotion; they’re just moments in a vacuum without much context because the movie aimlessly hits each important beat. Friendships and falling outs with other celebrated major players in the rap game contain no substance. However, by far the most unforgettable aspect of the story is that Tupac (who is given a good performance by a freakishly striking resembling Demetrius Shipp Jr.) comes off as a bunch of compartmentalized personality traits. There is no real character here.
Equally ridiculous are a series of flashbacks to Tupac’s penitentiary days where he is interviewed by a character credited as ‘journalist’. The scenes are meant to be the bridge between Tupac’s change in attitude and music after almost being murdered and subsequently jailed on sexual assault charges, but the transformation never really pops off the screen. It’s evident what the script is attempting, but the movie mistakes throwing on music video reenactments and concert scenes as character development. Realistically speaking, it also sanitizes the life of Tupac, afraid to actually deep dive into anything negative regarding the controversial figure. He was very clearly not a saint, but again, the movie isn’t interested in painting the portrait of a complex character.
There is no way around it; All Eyez on Me is absolutely awful. It’s a collection of scenes showing us events without any tissue connecting the narrative. Nothing here is engaging, which is a shame because it’s very clear that Demetrius is giving it his all. Nevertheless, the movie is so bad that it Tupac really did fake his death (I would have actually preferred the movie acknowledging this theory just so I could get some damn entertainment from the 140 minutes), there is no doubt that he will be on MTV tomorrow trashing it. Straight Outta Compton greatly made me appreciate N.W.A. more, whereas this movie just ran through a laundry list of things I and everyone else already knew about Tupac, along with a few fun trivia facts. All of the actors involved give serviceable performance, but putting it bluntly, there is no saving this material.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★