All Eyez On Me

By Angie Raphael

2.5 stars

In a similar way that iconic actor James Dean was immortalised following his untimely death at the age of 24 in 1955, so too was Tupac Shakur when the 25-year-old rapper was killed in a mysterious drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996. With the massive success of biopic Straight Outta Compton, perhaps expectations were too high for All Eyez On Me, which fails to capture the essence of a complicated and fascinating artist. Tupac had a tumultuous life but the film glosses over many important details, leaves some vital moments out completely, and assumes audiences already know about a lot of his troubles and influences. If this is supposed to be a film for fans, they will be disappointed, and if it is meant to inspire new fans, it only scrapes the surface of Shakur's relevance. The truth is Tupac was a great poet and social commentator, who was also prone to violence and criminal activity, but the film mistakenly canonises him, and that oversimplifies his legacy. In many ways, Benny Boom's film feels more like a made-for-television production.

All Eyez On Me begins with Tupac's youth when he was raised by single mother Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), a member of the Black Panther Party, who taught Tupac the value of an education. Tupac (Demetrius Shipp Jr) was exposed to racism and police brutality early and he had a chequered history with the law, but the truly pivotal moment came when he was jailed for a sex crime in 1995, which led to him working with the menacing Death Row Records boss Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana). The film also shows Tupac's friendship with rapper Christopher “Biggie” Wallace (Jamal Woolard), which when it soured, escalated the deadly rivalry between the rapper factions. Shipp Jr makes his debut in the lead role and is convincing throughout most of the film, while Gurira is also good in an intense and passionate role. But many of the other supporting cast members are weak and look little like the real people they portray. There is no doubt that fans will flock to see All Eyez On Me, but that does not mean they should.