Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Movie Review: "All Eyez on Me" (2017)

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Movie"All Eyez on Me"
Director: Benny Boom
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes

The life story of iconic rap artist Tupac Shakur.

There are certain influential artists throughout the history of each genre of music. Tupac Shakur's name is certain to come up whenever someone mentions rap or hip hop. Director Benny Boom takes a crack at telling the life story of the iconic rapper from the cradle to the grave.

There has certainly been a lot of backlash around "All Eyez On Me." Many of Tupac Shakur's real life friends and family have spoken out against the film's inaccuracies, while others have praised it for finally taking the bold step of telling the visionary's life story. Actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. fills the role of Tupac Shakur, and right off the bat, we can say he certainly looks the part. Joining him is Danai Gurira, who plays Tupac's mother Afeni Shakur. Though we like Gurira on "The Walking Dead" as she mercilessly chops up zombies as Michonne, her dramatic skills in showing Afeni's struggles with crack addiction don't quite pack the emotional punch one would hope. Being that this film covers Tupac's whole life, it has far too many characters and far too many different actors filling those roles to even attempt to name them all, but some people who pop up are Suge Knight, played by Dominic L. Santana, Jada Pinkett, played by Kat Graham, and Biggie Smalls, played by Jamal Woolard, who played the same role in "Notorious," the movie about Smalls' life. The movie starts out before Shakur is even born, showing his mother's background with the Black Panthers and her heavy interest in politics. From there, the story shows Tupac's theater background at school in New York and Baltimore before he and his sister are forced to move to Oakland where he eventually found his start as a rapper with the group Digital Underground. It all kind of goes on from there, showing his bustling rap career, his stints in prison, and his relationships and friendships until his tragic murder in September 1996.

One of the biggest problems with "All Eyez on Me" is its dreadful pacing. The film is nearly two and a half hours long and it actually manages to feel longer than that. As we mentioned above, characters come in and out of Pac's life, some who get introduced formally and some who are mere cameos for the sake of name recognition. The more people that get added, the more time is needed to make their presence known. It starts to feel like less of a Tupac movie and more of a showcase of the people he knew. While the biggest and more important events are told and shown on screen, director Benny Boom and screenplay writers Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, and Steven Bagatourian choose to merely skim the surface of his life.

As a huge Tupac fan and someone who has known his story for years, I was looking forward to seeing this movie, but it completely fails to engage the audience. Much of the story is told through an interview Tupac did while he was in Clinton Correctional Facility. Pac and the interviewer, played by Hill Harper, go back and forth as the story of Shakur's life is juxtaposed with this interview. Once a portion of his life is divulged on screen, the interviewer offers introspection and comments on who Tupac was as a person disguised as segues into the next flashback. Since Tupac's life obviously did not end in prison, once their conversation is over, there is still a lot of story left to be told, so the film is forced to change its narrative style at that point. This change is very jarring and out of place. Much of the movie and the way it is recounted winds up feeling more like a Lifetime movie of the week rather than a well-told biopic, the cardinal sin for any drama. We understand artistic license is often taken in biographies, but it is usually done to make things more interesting, not the other way around. Tupac's story didn't need big, flashy, emotional changes because his life was big, flashy, and emotional.

Despite a good performance from Demetrius Shipp Jr., "All Eyez on Me" winds up being a mostly dull, somewhat lifeless, super understated biopic that fails to deliver on intrigue and emotion. If you want to know about the life of this iconic rapper, watch the Oscar nominated documentary "Tupac: Resurrection" instead.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 16%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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