Poet. Gangsta. Thug. Visionary. Tupac Shakur was a lot of things to a lot of people, and though he was tragically cut down at age 25, he lived a full life—five studio albums, plus another five after his death, several live albums and compilations, and roles in a handful of films. His legacy in the music world is unquestioned, and he earned a well-deserved spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just this past April.
Obviously it was a matter of time before he became the subject of a biopic, and we finally get one, courtesy of music video director Benny Boom, on what would have been Tupac’s 46th birthday.
Tupac’s is a remarkable story, highlighted by both violence and redemption, and anyone who knows about him is aware of how much he accomplished in his 25 years. Boom, however, fails to do the man justice in All Eyez on Me, cramming as much as he can into 140 minutes, creating little more than a chronological laundry list.
In the first ten minutes alone, we are shuttled swiftly from 1971 (when Tupac’s pregnant mother Afeni is acquitted as part of the Panther 21) to 1975 (when Tupac is a small child in Harlem), to his stepfather becoming a fugitive in 1982 to Tupac’s move to Baltimore in 1987 and then to Oakland in 1988. It’s a neck-snapping, quick-hit parade of what is essentially a film version of Tupac’s Wikipedia page, giving no time for any depth or emotion along the way.
The balance of the film tracks Tupac’s fast rise in the rap world, culminating with his mega-success on the Death Row label, the East-West feud, and his murder in Las Vegas in September 1996.
Demetrius Shipp Jr. delivers a solid performance, despite the shallow material he is forced to work with, and Danai Gurira is likewise excellent as Afeni. It’s just disappointing they’re not given something to really sink their teeth into. The screenplay by Jeremy Haft and Eddie Gonzalez (TV’s Empire), and Steven Bagatourian (American Gun) hits all the key points in Tupac’s life, no question, but unlike 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, for example, there’s no depth and very little perspective.
All Eyez on Me plays more like a puddle-deep Lifetime movie (albeit an uncensored one) than a worthy tribute to Tupac and his legacy. The man deserves better.