All Eyez On Me (2017) Review: Citation Needed.
When thinking about ‘All Eyez On Me’, there’s almost no way to separate it from 2015’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’. The two films tell stories of similar conjectures, the rags to riches story of young black men in America with a dream, that became cultural icons. They even make use of the same locales and go so far as having the same characters loitering around the background of the main story. For the uninitiated, it’s easy to think ‘All Eyez On Me’ is a part of the 90’s Hip Hop Revolution Cinematic Universe.
The comparison, unfortunately, works against the untold story of Tupac Shakur, as ‘All Eyez On Me’ is a dull portrayal of an otherwise fascinating persona. The film follows the infamous rappers life from his childhood, all the way up to his untimely death in 1996. The movie decides to tell this story, like many biopics, in a series of flashbacks. The flashbacks are prompted by an interview being given by Shakur while in prison. This makes the flashbacks feel like dramatizations one sees in a documentary, rather than scenes in a film with compelling characters. The film also introduces its flashbacks by bafflingly displaying the dates of certain events right down to the day. I understand the film was going for authenticity, but it feels like the narrative version of Tupac Shakur trivia night.
The details of the story are fascinating, but the way they are told is messy. It felt as though someone sat down with Microsoft word opposite Tupac’s Wikipedia page, and jotted down the basic highlights. You’re told countless times about what a revolutionary Tupac was, but not once do you feel the effect he had. It’s a shame. Not just because there was a complex identity to be explored, but Demetrius Shipp Jr. is delivering a performance that would have been great, had there been material to work with.
The moments when you’re to be moved by Tupac’s sheer force of will, his tenacity, and his poetry, are the moments that are the flattest. There’s a far greater presentation to the supporting characters in this story. Jamal Woolard reprises his role as Biggie, and has the best musical moment in the film, quite literally upstaging the main attraction. Watching ‘All Eyez On Me’ is like hearing a huge Tupac fan tell you how great he is, but that you wouldn’t get it cause you just had to be there.
It’s no help that ‘All Eyez On Me’ is extremely unfocused. It feels the need to tell every single facet of the Tupac story, but with no narrative thread between the scenes. The scenes themselves are good, with actors like Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett giving genuine pathos in every scene. The trouble is they’re so disconnected it feels like you’re being dragged from one storyline to the next, and then back to the original one, without having a moment to reconcile the moment.
‘All Eyez On Me’ is saved by two things. The exceptional performances of its actors, and the beautiful way in which it’s shot. It’s a good looking film, safe for a few inexcusably lazy moments, where newspaper articles fly to the screen like the movie was made in Microsoft Publisher. Much of the movie is like the cliff notes of Tupac’s life. I’m sure that means a lot to the die hard Tupac fan, but since they’re already familiar with “the untold story”, I’m not quite sure who the movie is for.
Rating: Catch It On Cable.