Shakur biopic retells history as it might have been
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.