Influenced by the euphoric rush of hard candy and a fluffy frozen coke, I sat down to see All Eyez on Me. So, how do you tell a story when everyone knows the ending? Apparently, through a nostalgic connection to his music, handheld camera work briefly brushing through his struggles and making sure the supporting actors have more expression than the look a like Tupac Shakur. Son to a Black Panther movement out of the civil rights developments of the 1950’s, Tupac Shakur played by Demetrius Shipp Jr. is influenced by his proud Black Power parents as well as the spoken word poetry, the abusive investigations of police and ambitions to see change. In the film, Tupac deals with about 30 seconds of struggling with his Mum’s crack cocaine addiction, neighbourhood violence, police brutality, generosity to his community and his creation of influential music. These incredibly important moments seemed to be overlooked by director Benny Boom as he preferred to focus on Tupac’s cigarette addiction, lady troubles, under-served lawsuits and his hunger for money as a result.
The movie contains scenes like charming moments by a lake, a golden soulful reunion with family, cold occasions in the club and a godfather like table dinner with Suge Knight and Death Row Records. Some of the best, short-lived scenes were when Tupac cited Shakespeare’s philosophy with Biggie Smalls, quoting his rights to corrupt cops and cussing out the negative people questioning his motives. Actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. who played Tupac seemed to lack passion and character in his speeches. He fidgets more, as opposed to using his hands to make points. When I watch a Tupac speech I get goose bumps. I get wound up, frustrated and motivated – but in this film the charismatic Tupac, although either wielded a stern face or a captivating smile, just didn’t hit those emotions.
When the music did drop at key moments in the movie I was overwhelmed with nostalgia, sometimes with a grin, other times with a compassionate smile. Most of the time, however, these connections were broken by the painful cringes of noticing Tupac’s actor lip-syncing. If you know Tupac’s story already, don’t bother watching the film unless you enjoy a drama and would like to see how someone else’s perspective would fill in the gaps. If you haven’t heard of Tupac and would like to hear his story, listen to his music, watch his speeches, talk to his fans and then watch the film and come to your conclusion. Tupac Shakur wasn’t some overnight pop star. He was a revolutionary, a true “threat to the structure of society”.
All in all, I’m torn between whether I enjoyed the movie or not because I found myself walking home that night contemplating humanity and my imminent, possibly instant death – something I’d rarely think about. So I’m grateful for that in a weird masochistic, “life is too short” kind of way.