MOVIE REVIEW: ‘All Eyez on Me’ is an admirable, but severely misguided biopic

There are things to like in this Tupac Shakur biopic, but it's unfortunately brought down by poor direction and choppy editing

| June 21, 2017

Back in 2015, audiences were treated to the biopic that was “Straight Outta Compton,” a film that felt epic in scope and intimate in focus that felt like a cohesive look at both the entirety of N.W.A., as well as its individual members. Surprisingly, it’s taken until now for a film to come along to ride its coattails like “All Eyez on Me” does. That being said, “Straight Outta Compton” was not the first rap movie ever made, nor will it be the last, but the tone and format that “All Eyez on Me” is seemingly taking does paint a very similar picture. Still, when it comes to biopics, I will always take the jump into a film about a truly fascinating person, to which Tupac Shakur might be one of the most interesting public figures of the past 50 years.

But “All Eyez on Me” wouldn’t lead you to believe that.

What “Straight Outta Compton” and even something like “Notorious” did so well was that it focused heavily on the persons at hand, really getting a feel for each and every soul they were seeking to unfold. “All Eyez on Me” doesn’t touch into Tupac’s soul, but rather his ideals on the baseline level. If anything, “All Eyez on Me” feels quite a bit like a movie that scrapes by to get to the next musical sequence, as if that was all that Tupac lived for. It’s not entirely emotionless, as there are some scenes that do provoke a good amount of feeling, primarily between that of Tupac and his mother, Afeni, but these scenes are too far between for a movie such as this.

With that being said, the performances in the film are the thing that really push this film into being something admirable. Demetrius Shipp Jr. playing Tupac was a surprisingly powerful performance from such a newcomer to the game. While his resemblance isn’t as jaw-droppingly shocking as O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s resemblance to his father, Ice Cube, was in “Straight Outta Compton,” this is still a striking match that works throughout nearly the entire film. Shipp really commands what little detail the script holds with all that he can to get Tupac across, which really comes forth in Tupac’s own music that prove to be the most powerful sequences in the film. But if there was one performance that truly shook me, it would Danai Gurira’s as Afeni Shakur. As the Black Panther activist and Panther 21 member, Gurira brings everything powerful and moving about a strong black woman that she could to this performance that is actually beautiful. While this film doesn’t dig deep in the characterizations of those detailed, Gurira brings forth an award-worthy performance here.

Directed by Benny Boom, known primarily for his work on many music videos, it’s relatively clear that the realm of something this big isn’t his comfort zone. Combine this with a weak script and incredibly choppy editing and you have a film that feels incredibly disjointed and almost incomprehensible at some points. The biggest issue with “All Eyez on Me” is that none of these things work together to make you ever feel what Tupac was really about. Never once do you really get the scope of just how huge and influential Tupac really was, as they breeze through much of the success he went through for some more personal drama between himself and Suge Knight that never felt entirely beneficial to the story of Tupac. Had the film approached the subject with less of a pre-established hero complex and more of a fresh gaze into exactly why Tupac was so influential, we would have something cohesive, informative and ultimately powerful.

Another weak spot in the film’s production is its aesthetic. While Tupac’s life was anything but beautiful, the film never really goes beyond the baseline level of generic drama direction. The film takes on neutral tones that never give the audience anything to really revel at, which really should’ve been used had the film utilized Tupac’s success more into the storyline. Having seen the film on its last day of its limited engagement at Concord Mills’ Dolby Cinema, the film failed to pop even in the vibrant colors of Dolby Vision. Though I will give the film credit on its impressive sound design, made even more bombastic in Dolby Atmos. Unfortunately, the film is no longer playing in Dolby Cinema, ousted by “Transformers: The Last Knight,” but it will still impress regardless.

At 140 minutes, “All Eyez on Me” is incredibly overlong, with so much filler material that nearly half an hour could’ve been cut out of the final product. The worst part about this is that had the film truly portrayed Tupac and handled his story properly, it could’ve easily filled a 140 minute runtime with no drag whatsoever, but instead we get unimportant information in a film that feels like a skim of Tupac with a lot of nothing surrounding it.

Are there people who are going to disagree with me on this? Of course. This movie does do a lot of the typical biopic stuff that reaches out to audiences and impresses them, but in the wake of so many other recent biopics, the film falls short. I place much of this blame on its production company, Morgan Creek, who are notorious for re-editing films behind filmmaker’s backs, which I can only assume happened here. That being said, “All Eyez on Me” is a well-intentioned, admirable effort with some great performances, but the film is ultimately brought spiraling down by the film’s disjointed editing, uninspired direction and failure to portray the subject as the larger-than-life figure that he really was. It’s a struggle when a subject’s music tells you more about said subject than a 140 minute biopic does, but in the end, it could’ve always been worse. That being said, a movie like this shouldn’t have to rely on that clause.

2/5

Photo courtesy of Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate)

Directed by: Benny Boom
Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper, and Danai Gurira.
Runtime: 140 minutes
Rating: R for language and drug use throughout, violence, some nudity and sexuality.

Summit Entertainment and Morgan Creek Productions present, a James G. Robinson and Morgan Creek production, in association with Program Pictures and CodeBlack Films, a film by Benny Boom, “All Eyez on Me”

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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