The new film about rapper Tupac Shakur isn’t quite worthy of its subject’s remarkable life. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
Rapper Tupac Shakur was a revolutionary — a controversial, brilliant artist cut down in his prime — who only became more iconic after his death.
The son of a Black Panther, a high-school chum of Jada Pinkett Smith and a vanguard of West Coast gangsta rap, Shakur endured, and produced, far more in his 25 years than most ever do. His life story has been overdue for the biopic treatment, especially in light of the films about his rivals and contemporaries such as “Notorious” and “Straight Outta Compton.” After a long gestation, “All Eyez on Me” arrives in theaters, directed by Benny Boom, but this disorganized biopic isn’t quite worthy of its subject’s remarkable life.
Playing the part of Shakur is newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr., who looks eerily like the rapper. He channels Shakur in a performance where actor and real person ultimately meld together. Once he gets into his performance flow, the physical comparison is uncanny. In re-creations of television interviews, Shipp nails the energetic, motor-mouthed cadence of the outspoken Shakur.
Movie Review ★★
‘All Eyez on Me,’ with Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham, Danai Gurira. Directed by Benny Boom, from a screenplay by Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian. 140 minutes. Rated R for language throughout, drug use, violence, some nudity and sexuality. Several theaters.
But the film surrounding Shipp is rough going. “All Eyez on Me” gets off to a very bumpy start, as it skitters wildly around from life event to life event. We’re given a flash forward to Tupac onstage in front of adoring fans, then a prison interview that serves to guide us through his childhood and early career. It’s just lazy screenwriting to plop in an interviewer to interject names and places rather than establishing these facts in the script, and the seams are painfully obvious.
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The first 45 minutes of “All Eyez on Me” never gels, with bizarre scene transitions and characters that are scarcely introduced. But the film finds its legs in the second half, as Tupac becomes caught up in drama with Death Row Records, Suge Knight and the East Coast/West Coast rap beef.
The problem with biopics is knowing what — and what not — to include, and the writers of “All Eyez on Me” erred on the side of more is more, rather than selectively choosing the events that would best express the life story of the film’s subject.
While it’s a delight to watch Shipp channel Tupac, ultimately, the imitation doesn’t come close to the real thing.