All Eyez on Me has an advantage over other biopics because the person it’s about has such an interesting past. The intelligence and talent of Tupac Shakur with his troubled past should make for an entertaining film. However, the film suffers either from the direction by Benny Boom or the writing of Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, or Steven Bagatourian. Of course, studio involvement could kill a project too, but the film utilizes a weak framing device, fragmented scenes, and bad cinematic moments.
All Eyez on Me had few eyes on it at my screening
The IMDb summary claims All Eyez on Me tells the true and untold story of Tupac Shakur. What it mainly does is recreate iconic images of Tupac from music videos, album art, and movies while showing various moments from his life. A lot of the scenes in the film fans will have heard the rumors, the stories, or heard them in Tupac’s songs and the film makes no new accusations of who may be responsible for his murder.
Fortunately, even in a weakly made film something can stand out. The performances of Demetrius Ship Jr. as Tupac, Danai Gurira as Afeni Shakur, and Dominic L. Santana as Suge Knight are all very memorable. Gurira portrays Afeni with lots of range, passion, and strength. In some ways, the film is about her as much as it is Tupac. Ship resembles Tupac a lot and matches his mannerisms in several scenes of the film. Santana was a really strong Suge Knight and is intimidating despite some of the more silly scenes.
What didn’t work…
The big problems in the film start early when it’s established that the prison interview with Tupac and the interviewer (Hill Harper) will be used to flashback through Pac’s life. The interview is taking place in 1995 and starts flashing back rapidly through moments, apparently important ones, of his early years. Of course, this framing device eventually runs out of steam about halfway through this long movie as he has to get out of prison and make All Eyez on Me and Makaveli before his death in 1996. It’s this framing device that really makes the film feel weak. Scenes move from one to the other for no apparent reason. Too many characters have to spout exposition, which sometimes doesn’t really clarify who someone is or what someone is doing making all the more pointless.
It’s unfortunate that the first film about Tupac isn’t great. However, the first feature film to hit theaters about Steve Jobs sucked and then a talented director and writer got a hold of the story and made it incredible. Looking at you Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin. Boom or the editing staff use slow motion in scenes that definitely don’t need it. The film doesn’t really take the time to show Tupac being excellent at his craft enough. All Eyez on Me gets the Not a Total Waste of Time rating, but thanks for reminding me how much I love Tupac’s music.