Review: All Eyez on Me

All Eyez on Me
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PLOT: The life and times of rapper Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), from his childhood being raised by his Black Panther mother (Danai Gurira) to his multi-platinum success recording career, to his scrapes with the law and violent East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry, to his eventual death at age twenty-five.

REVIEW: STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON proved that the true stories behind some of rap hey-day’s biggest artists were perfect fodder for the big screen, and finally, after years of trying, the Tupac Shakur story hits the big screen. The results are decidedly mixed, but should please the late rapper’s legions of fans.

Director Benny Boom (NEXT DAY AIR) has a lot of ground to cover, making the 140 minute running time easy to forgive, as he keeps the pace moving fast – maybe too fast. We jump through all the big milestones in Shakur’s career, through his early days with Digital Underground (I’d forgotten his first big hit as a featured artist was off the Dan Aykroyd flop NOTHING BUT TROUBLE – which gets a shout-out here), signing with Interscope, incarceration, and eventual run with Death Row Records.

Outside of the days with Death Row, and the West Coast/ East Coast rivalry which pitted Shakur against former friend The Notorious B.I.G (with NOTORIOUS’s Jamal Woolard once again stepping into the rapper’s shoes), nothing is dwelled on too much. The early scenes showing Shakur as the child of Black Panther Afeni Shakur would have likely provided enough material for its own movie, especially with “The Walking Dead’s” Danai Gurira giving such a fierce performance (she seems primed for a major big-screen breakout). Instead, we get the Cliff’s Notes version of the rapper’s story, with the more unseemly aspects, such as his rape case, glossed over to some degree (the movie portrays him as wholly innocent – whether that’s the truth or not is another story).

The quick run-through of his career can be forgiven, as Boom delivers an entertaining ride, although a more nuanced depiction of his life would have helped this cross-over to a broader audience beyond his core fan base. Demetrius Shipp Jr., is as good as any of the leads in STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON as Shakur, looking the part and evoking the mad charisma that made him such an icon. While his more unsavory moments aren’t dwelled on, to his credit Boom portrays the rap war as the all-out madness that it was, with the arguing over territory eventual spelling disaster for the biggest stars on both sides. Dominic L. Santana makes for an imposing Suge Knight, a figure who’s often demonized. The movie acknowledges that he was more than a mere thug, and that there was some charisma there that drew people to him – even if he was violently unpredictable. He’s depicted here as the Al Capone of rap, to the point that one scene, where he dines with his employees, seems to be a riff on the baseball scene in THE UNTOUCHABLES.

The other hip hop acts in Shakur’s orbit range in the treatment, from Dr. Dre getting little more than a walk-on, to Snoop Dogg and Digital Underground’s Shock G seemingly having looped the actors playing them on-screen in their juicier parts (Dogg comes off as more of a peacemaker between the coasts than an active participant). Guirira’s “Walking Dead” co-star Lauren Cohan has a cameo as an early patron of Shakur’s, while Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett (yes, THAT Jada Pinkett) is the movie’s conscience, being a long-time friend of Shakur’s.

While rap historians may find plenty of holes to pick into here, ALL EYEZ ON ME is still an entertaining, if utterly standard biopic. It’s a good showcase for both Shipp and Shakur’s catalog, the best songs of which still get tons of play today and a good primer on his career and impact if you’re not aware.

Source: JoBlo.com



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