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For the initiated and uninitiated alike, Benny Boom’s All Eyez On Me will be seen as an opportunity missed. Never putting its larger than life subject under the objective microscope that all good biopics should, it vaults him instead onto a fanboy pedestal in gleaming, unadulterated limelight.
It’s quite remarkable that a film dealing with a firebrand lyrical genius whose existence burned so brightly, bravely and brutally for such a short period of time could result in this thunderously dull, and altogether too safe, end product. Posters proclaiming All Eyez On Me
as the ‘Untold Story of Tupac Shakur’ are sadly ironic. Doing little to dig beneath the surface of this rags to riches to murder tragedy or reveal anything to us that a brief Wikipedia search could not disclose, Boom’s film leaves us wanting more – through frustration rather than intrigue.
With that said, a valiant central turn by Demetrius Shipp Jr., who makes his big screen debut here, should be commended. The actor’s physical resemblance to the slain rapper, his comfortable and engaging screen presence and a clear investment in his performance retain interest for a time before the cracks in direction, scripting and leaden pacing began to show.
As if really wanting to nail home some sense of veracity to this storytelling the three screenwriters involved in the scripting of All Eyez On Me open with Hill Harper’s journalist stating to ‘Pac in a prison-set interview that he’s “just trying to tell the real story.” But flashbacks from here to his childhood, to being uprooted from Baltimore to Oakland, to his Black Panther-turned drug addict mom, to the shooting of two racist off-duty cops, to a rape allegation case, are all skimmed over so swiftly that they don’t have an impact. The latter, however, is dealt with in such an alarmingly biased fashion that questions abound. And very little is answered.
Once the proverbial Big Time hits its peak, relationships with money-grabbing hangers-on inevitably turn sour and Tupac’s infamous feud with Biggie Smalls ends in near catastrophe but the truth of the matter once again eludes us. To a large extent hollow, meaningless and unstable his life may have become but it’s unfortunate that the film follows a similar path. The muddled script descends into little more than continuous yelling and expletives and when the anticipated conclusion hits its climax we feel relief at the ordeal coming to an end and no sense of the travesty that was the extinguishing of a bright, misunderstood and mysterious light.