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June 18, 2017

‘All Eyez On Me’ Blunders Tupac’s Transcendent Image [Review]

The resurrection of an exalted ‘90s rap god will have to wait another day as Tupac Shakur’s tomb remains occupied with his body tossing and turning in response to the results of the egregious biopic, “All Eyez on Me.” The MC’s talent transcended the music industry of the early ‘90s, yet, “All Eyez on Me” fails to give justice to a slain life that aimed to alter the world’s trajectory through his poetic armory of lyrics. Glossing over Tupac’s story, this ill-conceived biopic is permeated by an addled narrative, fantastical stagings of violence and poor character dynamics. For those hoping to tap into the groundwork that laid the foundation to Tupac’s career, this film rings a false alarm.

“All Eyez on Me” chronicles the humble beginning, meteoric rise and premature end of rapper Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), who was fatally shot in a drive-by on Sep. 7, 1996. Always living precariously on the edge, the tight-rope walking Shakur’s striking existence was void of complacency. Diligently honing his craft as an uncanny wordsmith, Tupac ardently projected impassioned war cries for his community to absorb — a community relentlessly brought to its knees by an America where institutional racism reigns supreme and police brutality remains extreme. Unfortunately, “All Eyez on Me” fails to capture the rapper’s radiant aura and enigmatic and complex persona. fIn reality, the film broods with biopic conventionality, depriving a subject that stayed clear from the ordinary.

Penned by three writers, the narrative’s contending visions clash and come off as half-baked— ham fisted and unnecessarily turbulent in sequencing. Even the more emotional scenes are held captive by clumsy dialogue and failed character dynamics — a trope prevalent in many cable-tv biopics that never see the light of day. In fact, the feeble Lifetime Channel and “television-featured event” atmosphere infiltrates the entire duration with atrociously grueling pacing.

Dull performances across the board lend a helping hand in the film’s lifeless storytelling. While the portrayal of Pac’s mother (Danai Gurira) may say otherwise, the performance by Demetrius Shipp Jr. validates the point. The eerie physical resemblance of Shipp to Pac is irrefutable. Nonetheless, the man beneath the Pac-like features is barren of the vigor, tenacity and swagger that amplified Shakur’s larger-than-life nature. Sorely lacking Tupac’s hallmark charisma, Shipp’s mâché imitation relies on clichéd glitz and glamor of Tupac’s life while generically scratching the surface of Pac as a voice of hope and change.

Choppy and humdrum, “All Eyez on Me” resembles a middle-schooler’s research paper written on Tupac Shakur, a needless grab bag of facts pertaining to his publicized lifestyle. Butterfingered attempts at tension and superfluous cathartic outbursts manifests into something utmost laughable. Nevertheless, the film manages success in presenting historical context for those lacking an understanding of the blossoming rap scene of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The context sets the stage to indulge in the most potent music of the past two generations. However, a far more accurate portrayal of Shakur can be obtained by delving into one of his songs rather than sitting through the entirety of this overlong, two-and-a-half-hour film.

Director Benny Boom’s fourth feature fails to rival the power of Pac’s music and becomes infected by a stale script failing to compromise Pac’s life story as not only a hip-hop auteur, but an oppressed man guided by love — love for his people, community and culture. Tupac’s legacy deserved a better story, and hopefully one day he will be rewarded with one. [D+]

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