Review: All Eyez On Me
A Lifetime movie that had marketing potential, and nothing more.
Biopics can be a tough sell, but when done right they are truly a visual memorial of one’s lifetime. These films yield an emotional presence as real as the lives that lived them, and leave you feeling “heavy”. It usually makes it worth the two plus hours, but not this time. All Eyez on Me, touted as the “untold” story of late rapper Tupac Shakur is anything but, delivering an uninspired production that feels as empty as it’s byline.
Tupac’s (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) life is chronicled through an in prison interview, where he breaks down his life to a journalist (Hill Harper), opening up the narrative to move through the key points in his life beginning in New York City. Raised by his mother, a black panther member named Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), his mind is shepherded towards finding wisdom in words. We see him grow into a young man in the Baltimore streets, where he meets the to be star Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham), and his rise to fame when he’s shuffled off to California by his mother. In fact, you see everything, but it really is everything that you already know. A literal checklist of Tupac facts, one after another. Digital Underground. Marin City. Biggie. Rape case. Shooting numero uno. Prison. Death Row and on a lesser note Death Row East. Vegas.
Aside from the it’s turbulent production, the most notable item of press that All Eyez on Me received was due to its casting of Demetrius Shipp Jr., an almost identical look alike to Tupac Shakur. Eerie almost. You’ve got to do more than look like someone to play them – you’ve got to act. Shipp Jr. inexperience often shows when he has to deliver more, and this is unfortunate because his energy is truly electric in a few scenes. His emotional range seems to halt at “energetic rapper” but with time Shipp Jr. might be able to carve out his own path in the entertainment industry.
Directed by Benny Boom, the fourth director to be brought on to the project after John Singleton, Antoine Fuqua, and Carl Franklin, stumbled in more than one aspect of production in All Eyez on Me. Think about that for a second though – four directors. Singleton cited problems with the script being his reasons for walking, reasons which are inherently present in the final film. The film, again, reads a checklist that often tries to take on social commentary poorly. As the story unfolds it over utilizes foreshadowing, and does so poorly. The foreshadowing is always over dramatic and over the top, coming off laughable as opposed to emotional. Characters are written as flat caricatures, and little is actually explored around them. Even Tupac’s infamous duality is summed up to him constantly dropping Shakespeare at moments of persecution or trial. The film moved along at a blistering and bumpy pace, developing an edit that was far from desirable. Cinematography is dull and lifeless, often times dropping back to longer wide takes to allow for the acting to be showcased, but that often stumbled leaving the audience with uncomfortably long moments filled with cheese. Boom, whose bread and butter has come from big name hip hop videos seems lack the vision to make the project feel “big”.
All Eyez on Me did not belong in a theatre. It did not deserve the attention it received, and the fans do not deserve this. Above all, one of the most nuanced characters in the current history of American music deserves more. Nothing happens here, and nothing is felt. Flatlined. This was a Lifetime movie that had marketing potential, and nothing more.