All Eyez on Me chronicles the life and legacy of Tupac Shakur, including his rise to superstardom as well as his imprisonment and controversial time at Death Row Records. The film’s title comes from his double album, “All Eyez on Me”.
Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) was raised in the Bronx by his outspoken mother Afeni (Danai Gurira) (she was a member of the Black Panthers). He confronted police brutality at an early age. FBI agents raided his home on Christmas Eve in search of his activist stepfather, Mutulu Shakur.
Moving to Maryland in his teens, Tupac attended Baltimore School for the Performing Arts. There he befriended a young Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham). But just as Tupac began thriving in this creative environment, his then drug-addicted mother shipped him off to live with relatives in Oakland, California. Discovered at a Bay Area poetry workshop, Shakur was on his way. His personal life however became entangled in a string of arrests, financial problems and gunfights. He died in September 1996 at the age of 25. His record sales total more than 75 million globally.
Among other larger than life characters featured are volatile Death Row Records mogul Suge Knight (Dominic Santana) and artist-producer Dr Dre (Harold House Moore).
Written by Jeremy Haft & Eddie Gonzalez (“Empire”) and Steven Bagatourian (American Gun), All Eyez on Me is directed by Benny Boom (S.W.A.T.: Firefight).
While I learnt a lot about Tupac through the surprisingly engaging 2 hours 19 minutes, there was also a lot left unsaid. Many times when I wanted to know more, when detail was lacking. There were several leaps in the time frame and you had to tweak your mindset to keep up. In other words, you got an overview of what was going down, without a great detail of information about any one event in this young man’s life. Just give yourself time to adjust to the style and tempo of proceedings.
The performances of the actors playing both mother and adult son are memorable. Both are passionate and responsive to their upbringing and surroundings.
Tupac appeared to pack a whole lot of living into his tragically short life. The ugly excesses of the music industry take centre stage. Beneath it all is a man with not only something to say, but a wordsmith who didn’t hold back in the face of intimidation. It makes you wonder what other twists his life could have taken and what more he could have offered had the spray of bullets not deprived him of breath.
Rated MA, All Eyez on Me scores a 7½ out of 10.
Director: Benny Boom
Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham
Release Date: 15 June 2017
Rating: MA 15+
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television