All Eyez on Me (2017)
Directed by: Benny Boom | 139 minutes | biography, drama, music | Actors: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh, Dominic L. Santana, Jamal Woolard, Rayan Lawrence, Keith Robinson, Lauren Cohan, Cory Hardrict, Grace Gibson, Jeph Cangé, Desean Jackson, Brandon Sauve, Josh Ventura Azad Arnaud, Harold House Moore, Khadija Copeland, Chanel Young, Chris Clarke, Ronald Brooks, Hamid-Reza Benjamin Thompson, Deray Davis, Bruce Davis, Gary Weeks
Tupac Shakur was a versatile man. He managed to work his way up from deprived areas to the highest echelons of the cultural world. He conquered the world of film and music but also became an icon followed by millions of people. On the road to success you naturally meet friend and foe, this was no different for Tupac Shakur. Record owners and competitors constantly stood in his way, or lighted him up in front of him. A lot happened in the rapper’s life in a short time. How do you portray such a hectic life for a cinema film? By making it as messy as Tupac Shakur’s life, apparently…
Fortunately, the main reason to see ‘All Eyez on Me’ is in the main character. Demetrius Shipp Jr. is easily the best thing about this (too) long print. Not only is the young actor a perfect likeness of the rapper and movie star, he also knows how to bring out the naivety of the character and does so in a way that the audience sympathizes with him. Shipp Jr. portrays that helpless feeling so well, he wants to change the world but is stopped and put back at every hurdle he has to overcome. It is poignant to see how unfair the 1990s were for ethnic minorities. Director Benny Boom is happy to let the viewer know.
More than once the emotion is turned on very strongly. Especially with the murder at the end of the film, the scene that should have been the most memorable of this biopic, the viewer is given a good dose of melodrama and slow motion. You don’t really see what’s happening. Of course it is a technique that can work well in this scenario, but in this case Boom fails miserably in portraying this historic event.
The hectic pace can be found throughout the product. Not only in terms of filming, but especially in the structure. ‘All Eyez on Me’ does not really have a plot, it is a sequence of moments from the life of Tupac Shakur. There is no line to be found and certain things are passed too quickly. It’s like showing some sort of summary of a movie that should have lasted four hours. Boom should have either focused on one or two subjects to cover or made that four-hour film. The middle ground does not lend itself to a coherent end product. This is especially painfully evident in the early days of Tupac’s rap career. Within a few minutes he was hired at the record company, he has completed his first tour and has a fierce conflict about his sound that is suddenly resolved within a scene change. In those few minutes alone, a film of at least an hour and a half is hidden.
That collection of moments also ensures that the various minor characters in Tupac Shakur’s life have minimal screen time. Some who stand out are Jamal Woolard who returns as rapper Biggie Smalls (he also played the rapper in his own biopic ‘Notorious’) and Keith Robinson as Tupac’s manager Atron. But the relationships with these two gentlemen are also not fully explored and the storylines therefore fall short.
However, the great protagonist and the impressive time frame are not enough to count ‘All Eyez on Me’ as a good film. Too much fragmentary material is quoted without even a single red line. Interesting for the real die hard fans of the man, although this film will not give them any more secrets.