Benny Boom’s biopic of influential rapper Tupac Shakur, All Eyez on Me, was always going to be an ambitious task – The man lived one of the most intriguing, if short, lives in music history; one many would find difficult to translate to the screen.
Although it runs just shy of two and a half hours, 2Pac’s achievements, along with the multifarious media coverage he received, are hard to condense into a film of even this length. Boom is somewhat successful in this respect. The film chronicles the rapper’s life from birth, all the way to his death in 1996 at 25. Sadly, the director fails to scratch the surface of many of the key events in Shakur’s life – they’re demonstrated, but rarely felt. This is a film that has been awaited by fans, but proves underwhelming with its substandard script and lack of emotional depth.
For the majority of All Eyez on Me, the structure feels sloppy. Taking place simultaneously in two different points in the life of our protagonist, the intrusion of interview sequences with Pac in the penitentiary bankrupt the film of any engaging narrative flow and progression. As the audience feels they are beginning to fathom the complex man behind the music, we cut away, and it becomes tiresome.
Improving these structural issues ahead of the films third act, there is still time to enjoy Demetrius Shipp Jr.’s performance, which previously had been overshadowed by lack of direction. After choosing to sign with Death Row Records, the narrative becomes entangled in pressuring character relationships and the conflicts arising between the music and the ‘thug life’. It is during this transitory period in Shakur’s life that we begin to explore what made him an icon beloved by so many. Aware of his fate, certain scenes force you to feel apprehensive and alert to the cast of questionable characters that surround him. As the film draws closer to its climax the interactions between those he meets and begins to care for possess a tenderness. These poignant elements help elevate the film above my initial condemnation of an utterly forgettable biopic.
Needless to say, the soundtrack is excellent, and injects the film with enough energy to keep it afloat until its belated narrative resuscitation. All Eyez on Me is certainly not worthy of the success met by Nick McKinney’s Straight Outta Compton, but it proves adequately rewarding in the end in its portrayal of one of music’s most celebrated artists, and tragic losses.