By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
The new Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me”
arrives with little fanfare and less-than-stellar reviews.
This is rather surprising, particularly since “All Eyez on Me” had been nearly 20 years in the making.
Initially, there were several directors chomping at the bit to helm the project. They included: John Singleton, (TV’s upcoming, “Snowfall”) Antoine Fuqua (“The Magnificent Seven” remake) and Carl Franklin (“Out of Time”).
But, after these and other major shake-ups, music video mogul Benny Boom was tasked with bringing Shakur’s legendary and bigger than life story to the big screen.
Tupac is considered one of the greatest/influential rappers and visionaries of his generation. On September 7, 1996, the rapper/actor was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada and died six days later.
Shakur was 25-years old when he died and his murder remains an unsolved mystery.
While I’m not a diehard Tupac fan, I like a lot of his music. I also liked the positive direction he seemed to want to take his life before it was cut short.
So, it’s disappointing that “All Eyez on Me” really offers nothing new or groundbreaking about Shakur that casual and die-hard fans haven’t read about or watched on news shows and documentaries.
But, it’s the memory of Shakur and his lasting impact on hip-hop/rap music that viewers of “All Eyez on Me” will most likely appreciate.
That and how much the film’s lead star, Demetrius Shipp Jr. bears such an uncanny resemblance to Shakur and how he captures his rawness and swagger.
“All Eyez on Me,” is 140 minutes long, yet it still feels as if there’s so much more that the movie doesn’t include.
It starts with Shakur’s political upbringing with his Black Panther mother (a terrific Danai Gurira, from the upcoming “Black Panther” and TV’s “Walking Dead”).
Hill Harper (TV’s “Homeland”) adds a nice dynamic to the film as a journalist interviewing Shakur through various stages of his hard knock life.
The movie’s concert (“The Humpty Dance”) and recording studio scenes (“California Love”) are among the film’s biggest highlights.
“All Eyez on Me” moves at a steady pace starting with Shakur’s halcyon days growing up in New York, his fascination with the theater and William Shakespeare, his big, music break with Shock G of Digital Underground, his burgeoning film career, his relationship with Jada Pinkett Smith (a wonderful Kat Graham, TV’s “The Vampire Diaries”), his desire to save his mother from drug abuse.
There's also the sexual assault charges, meeting Biggie Smalls (Jamal Woolard, “Notorious”), his ambush shooting at Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan, moving to Los Angeles and signing with Suge Knight (Death Row Records) played convincingly by Dominic L. Santana, “Mr. Right”).
The critically acclaimed 2015 hip-hop biopic “Straight Outta Compton," raised the bar. While “All Eyez on Me” is an ambitious effort and Shipp Jr. is fascinating channeling Shakur, the film’s overall tone and context often feels askew. I just wonder what "All Eyez on Me" would have been like under John Singleton's direction.
Look At This Trailer For "ALL EYEZ ON ME"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.