Told through an interview with a journalist, the life and times of Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp, Jr.) and his rise from gifted teenager to one of the most well-known rap artists of our time is explored.
For many people, Tupac Shakur is a mythic form. The bandana, the gang sign, the gold chain, it's all as iconic as Bob Marley's locks, Frank Sinatra's tuxedo, or Elvis Presley's jumpsuits. They're latched onto the persona, but exploring the person underneath and removing these elements to find them rarely happens. In most musical biopics, we see how they attain these and become who they are. With All Eyez On Me, the long-awaited Tupac biopic, it doesn't make any attempt to examine him. Instead, we're treated to the highlight reel of his life and given an emotionless, dry recounting of his story. Yes, All Eyez On Me is the life and times of Tupac Shakur - but we're not given any kind of context or introspection on him.
Instead, we're treated to people who look and sound vaguely like the people they're portraying. Demetrius Shipp, Jr. has Tupac's mannerisms down, as well as physically resembling him to the point where you'd be forgiven for thinking there's a conspiracy around him. His mother, Afeni Shakur and played by The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira, has the righteous anger you'd expect from an ex-Black Panther. There's scenes where we see Biggie, Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy and other figures of the era - but it's either done in such a way that their faces are obscured, they're slightly of focus or they're not brought into the story in a convincing way. Instead, we have to contend with poor acting and bland storytelling from the rest of the cast.
It's a real shame that All Eyez On Me opts for the most ho-hum method of recounting Tupac's life, taking a blase attitude to the massive inconsistencies between his public persona of an outlaw rapper, and his private life as an introspective and deeply intelligent musician who trained in Shakespeare and spoke on progressive issues with real conviction. Yes, there were these contradictions in him - but who cares when we've got people that look like Snoop Dogg or there's a full two minutes devoted to California Love. Even the way they use his music in the film is uninspired and drab, and the way in which it covers him writing and recording these songs is just done in a perfunctory way.
The film doesn't have any heart to it, and in the hands of a more experience director, it may avoided this. It's no surprise that John Singleton, director of Boyz In The Hood, walked away from this film and is now publicly denouncing it. It's not because of sour grapes, it's because the film doesn't really respect the material and doesn't offer any kind of meaningful insight into Tupac's life. Instead, it opts for painfully cliched story beats and characterisation, ignores the rich contradictions of Tupac's own life and career, and settles into itself like a TV movie.
There's a far, far better story that can be made on Tupac Shakur and he deserves better than this. See it if only confirm to your suspicion that this is as poor as you think it is.