Shakur biopic retells his­tory as it might have been

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

THIS good-look­ing biopic does the late US hip-hop artist Tu­pac Shakur no favours.

Shakur, who at last count had sold more than 75 mil­lion records world­wide, prided him­self on telling it like it is.

All Eyez On Me tells it like it might have been — in some kind of al­ter­na­tive, gangsta Dis­ney­verse.

The jour­nal­ist (Hill Harper) di­rec­tor Benny Boom em­ploys as a nar­ra­tive fram­ing de­vice de­liv­ers the ex­po­si­tional di­a­logue with crude ef­fi­ciency.

But as an in­ter­viewer, he’s deeply com­pro­mised.

When the film opens, Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr) has been jailed for sex­ual as­sault. The jour­nal­ist vis­its Shakur in prison to get his side of the story and that’s ex­actly what All Eyez On Me de­liv­ers — with­out an ounce of self­aware­ness or self-re­flec­tion.

For the most part, the jour­nal­ist just asks Dorothy Dix­ers (he stum­bles around his one at­tempt to chal­lenge Shakur — on the sex­ual abuse ques­tion).

All Eyez On Me proudly cel­e­brates Shakur’s mother Afeni’s (Danai Gurira) Black Pan­ther days and makes it clear how for­ma­tive this ex­pe­ri­ence was on the young Tu­pac. But it fudges on the abrupt dis­ap­pear­ance of his step-dad Mu­tulu (Jamie), who was im­pris­oned for armed rob­bery, and skirts po­litely around Afeni’s ice ad­dic­tion.

The scene in which Shakur shoots an off-duty po­lice­man in the leg feels oddly un­con­tex­tu­alised.

His friend­ship with the young Jada Pin­kett (Kat Gra­ham) is also there purely for the record.

Boom touches on the vi­o­lence that un­der­pinned the busi­ness deal­ings of Death Row CEO Suge Knight (Do­minic L. San­tana) — there’s an ugly scene in which the record-pro­duc­ing hard man deals with a till-skim­ming em­ployee in the mid­dle of an op­u­lent din­ner.

But in this ver­sion of his story, Shakur presents as a kind of im­par­tial ob­server. It’s not that he is obliv­i­ous to what is go­ing on around him, ex­actly, but he be­haves as if it has noth­ing to do with him.

The big­gest prob­lem, how­ever, with All Eyez On Me, which takes its ti­tle from Shakur’s fourth dou­ble al­bum, are the mu­si­cal per­for­mances.

Shipp’s cru­cial final stage out­ing as the hard­core rap­per is strangely flat, es­pe­cially when com­pared to footage of the man him­self.


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