Two decades ago, on a fateful September night, guns silenced the voice of hip-hop's (arguably) most influential figure—the man who firmly believed that if he kept talking enough about how bad the world is, someone will come forward to clean it. A poet, actor, an activist, a revolutionary and a troublemaker, Tupac Amaru Shakur lived a short, but tumultuous life that had enough of highs, lows and flaws to make the proceedings in Menace II Society or Boyz n the Hood look tepid. A biopic then, was indeed in order.
All Eyez on Me, directed by Benny Boom, who has many music videos of 50 Cent, Akon and scores of other rappers to his credit, follows the life and times of Tupac—from his birth until the fateful night six bullets were pumped into him. The movie chronicles his early days, years of fame and infamy, his run-ins with the law and his friendship with Jada Pinkett.
Newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. gets the rap legend's gait and other mannerisms right. With the 'THUG LIFE' and all other tattoos in place, Shipp Jr. walks, talks and raps like the hip-hop star.
The Walking Dead fame Danai Gurira plays Tupac's mom Afeni Shakur, a political activist who is suspicious of everyone who is not coloured. Life wasn't fair to Afeni; she was constantly on the run, had her bouts with drugs and lived with the agony of her son living a dangerous life. Gurira's portrayal of Afeni and her trials and tribulations looks soulless.
Jamal Woolard gets to fill the big shoes of Notorious B.I.G. once again and he plays the towering East Coast rapper convincingly. Dominic L. Santana who essays the menacing record producer Suge Knight is impressive.
The film unfolds in a chronological order, almost making you feel as if you are reading a short biography of the rapper. Unfortunately, the director fails to delve deeper into the psyche of a flawed hero albeit the fact that Shipp Jr. managed to perfectly mimic the mannerisms of the legendary rapper.
All Eyez on Me comes as a heavily unbalanced account of Tupac's eventful life. His fitful tiffs with law enforcement, trysts with substance, possession of firearms, arrests for assaults and his tendency to constantly fly off the handle are brushed aside or get only a passive mention. The East Coast–West Coast hip-hop feud that may or may not have caused the bullets that cut short the rapper's life and the episode involving Faith Evans are dealt with unconvincingly.
If you are a rap fanatic and have feasted on All Eyez on Me, 2Pacalypse Now and Me Against the World, Boom's Tupac biopic has enough moments for you to fondly recall the artiste who gifted them. Most of his famous songs featured in the film—California Love, Only God Can Help Me and Dear Mama, among others—are aptly placed. The background score by John Paesano (Daredevil) manages to impress.
All Eyez on Me works as a tribute to the rapper, but disappoints as a grounded biopic.
Film: All Eyez on Me
Director: Benny Boom
Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr. , Danai Gurira, Jamal Woolard, Annie Ilonzeh