More like no eyez should see.
Bio-pics are probably the toughest projects to make in Hollywood. Recently, the bar has been set high with the smash hit Straight Outta Compton, the film about the rise and fall of the influential rap group N.W.A. With the success of that film, obviously producers saw the opportunity to make even more biographical films on influential rappers. The most obvious choice to do such a film was Tupac Shakur, the king of west coast hip-hop/rap and widely regarded as one of the best rappers the genre has ever seen. That film has arrived in the form of All Eyez on Me, and fans of the rapper everywhere have held their collective breath in the hopes that the film tells the story of Shakur as elegantly as the makers of the film have promised us.
As stated earlier, All Eyez On Me tells the life story of rapper icon Tupac Shakur. This includes his tumultuous upbringing with his mother and sister, his time as a member of rap group Digital Underground, his rise to superstardom as a solo artist as part of Interscope Records and Death Row Records, his fall due to his prison sentence, and his complex relationship with classmate and close friend Jada Pinkett Smith.
Unlike the titular song and the rhymes of the rapper whose story is being told, All Eyez On Me has no flow. From a technical standpoint, the transitions from scene to scene are jarring. The film also liberally flashes back and forth between time periods, mainly between an interview that was supposedly conducted while Shakur was incarcerated and his early life/ rise in the hip-hop world. The script/ dialogue in the film is soap-opera level, and it’s clear director Benny Boom does not have the competency to direct his actors nor does he have the ability to make a competent film. I’d compare the film’s inability to be cohesive to a T.V. movie, but even HBO made for T.V. films are more competently directed than this feature film.
Lead actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. gives it his all as Tupac Shakur, and although he bares a striking resemblance to the rapper, he comes off as a cheap imitator of the man. Like Straight Outta Compton having veteran actor Paul Giamatti in the cast to help anchor the film, All Eyez On Me relies upon Danai Gurira (*who plays Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur*) to do the same, but to embarrassing results. All her character does is speechify and over-act, and does more harm than good to the film. Dominic L. Santan’s Suge Knight is more laughable than threatening, Kat Graham’s Jada Pinkett angle could’ve been completely cut out and the film would have benefited from it, and Jamal Woolord’s return as Notorious B.I.G. serves a reminder that his 2009 film Notorious is much better than the bio-pic you’re watching.
The only riveting scenes in the film are Tupac’s time as a member of Digital Underground. The original members of that group return portraying themselves, and it’s interesting to see Mr. Shakur’s beginnings and rise to superstardom. That portion of the film lasts maybe 15 minutes, and All Eyez On Me is a near 2.5 hour long slog through the rest of the rapper’s supposedly mesmerizing life. Anytime the film gets remotely interesting it glosses over the subject and moves onto the next scene, making the film feel like a greatest hits album. One of the most cringe-worthy sequences in the film is the re-enactment of Mr. Shakur’s rape case, but instead of offering proper insights and casting some reasonable doubt, the film slut-shames the woman involved and flat out says she made the whole incident up. While she very well could’ve made it up since Shakur denied the charges back when he was alive, the filmmakers are such amateurs that they can’t cast at least some doubt on the case.
Listen, I firmly believe the filmmakers had their hearts in the right place while making this film. They clearly have love for the man and his life and want to see his story told on the silver screen for a broad audience to view and enjoy. But there lies the issues with the film. The filmmakers are blind to their mishaps because they are too invested in the project. There has to be some objectivity with a bio-pic. All Eyez On Me, however, would to prefer to treat its subject as the incarnation of rap Jesus to the point that during his death scene, he resembles Jesus dying on the cross while operatic church music blasts in the background.
All Eyez On Me is a perfect example of how not to make a biographical film. You have to treat the subject matter with objectivity, but this film substitutes that for complete adoration of their subject, to devastatingly crippling results. When it’s all said and done, All Eyez On Me resembles more of a cover band of Tupac Shakur than the man himself. In short, no eyes should be on All Eyez On Me.
Rating: 1.5/4 Stars. Stay Away.