By Greg Brand, Jr.
SOTG Entertainment Editor
All Eyez on Me (2017) Drama/Biography • Rating: R • Run Time: 2h 20m • SOTG Grade: C
Following a criminally long wait for a wide commercial release, Summit Entertainment’s Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me has finally made it to theaters and honestly, the result leaves much to be desired. All Eyez on Me makes its best attempt at telling the story of one hip-hop’s most engaging and prolific wordsmiths but ironically fails in connecting and engaging viewers with the story.
Featuring a charismatic young actor (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) as the lead and several strong performances from the cast, are all that save this film from being complete trash. Fans have waited nearly two years since the film’s initial announcement and while it delivers some neat visuals, the film is a little flat.
This film struggles the most in its pacing and rushed storytelling. From its opening to the final scene, the film jumps around at a maniacal pace. By failing to take its time and help develop the story more, All Eyez on Me doesn’t dig in as much as it could to allow for a fully immersive film experience.
We are initially introduced to Tupac as his mother is pregnant with him and again as a pre-adolescent. Next and without transition, we are shown the adult actor portraying him as a teen fighting thru high school and on into adulthood.
While there is drama associated with the moments of his childhood, the begin and end so quickly that viewers don’t have time to care about what’s going on. Perhaps the film suffers due to unintentional comparison to recent, made-for-tv and major biopic releases.
With Straight Outta Compton, Notorious and the BET-produced New Edition mini-series, hopes were high for the Tupac film. Each of the aforementioned films did great jobs of building the story and then connecting us with the artists. This film does not have the same setup.
While there is attention dedicated to his early life, this film is all about his time at Death Row Records. Sure, Death Row was his most controversial time in the limelight, but there was so much more to him as a rapper, actor, and artist.
In spite of its limitations, the film does have bright spots. The brightest shine in the form of the film’s performances. Hollywood newcomer, Shipp Jr., is amazing as the iconic rapper. Not only does he nail the physical appearance of the rapper, he also carries the mannerism and emotional expressiveness the actor/rapper was known for.
Powerful performances are also delivered by Danai Gurira as Afeni Shakur, Annie IIonzeh as Kidada Jones, Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett and Dominic Santana as Suge Knight. Each brings authenticity to their roles and are engaging to watch on the screen. It was also a pleasant surprise for Jamal Woodard to reprise his role as the Notorious B.I.G. from the hit Biggie biopic, Notorious.
Fans of the rapper will also appreciate the attention to detail regarding key events in his life. Unfortunately, they will also notice the complete absence of some parts also.
Bottom Line: The film is filled with strong performances and deserves a look if only to see a legend portrayed on screen. Unfortunately, thanks to storytelling issues, it is also not a tragedy if you miss it.