“All Eyez On Me” is a biographical drama film that attempts to capture life and legacy of American hip-hop star Tupac Shakur, shot dead in an unsolved drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, at age 25 in 1996.
The first thing that strikes you about the film is Demetrius Shipp Jr.’s frightening resemblance to Tupac Shakur, who was also known by his stage names 2Pac, Pac, and Makaveli.
While Shipp Jr. may not merit any credit for his uncanny resemblance to the man he portrays, he certainly deserves all the accolades for a doing a brilliant job with the overall body language of 2Pac, his mannerisms and the way he delivered a statement.
The dancing was unbelievable – he simply nailed it with his long-limbed, bobbing moves that were so reminiscent of the late rapper.
In the TV interview recreations, Ship Jr. is a spitting image of Pac in his energy and delivery – it is an almost perfect, portrayal of the lively, garrulous cadence of the candid Shakur.
Ship. Jr.’s performance is not just an impression but much more than that – you can’t help but feel you are watching 2Pac’s real life with its ups and downs – not his “reel life.”
The film gets off to a rather jerky start, with no fluidity in the storytelling for the first quarter of an hour, or so.
The scenes keep jumping from one life event to another, a jumble of dates and locations, in no chronology whatsoever. From a flash forward taking you to an onstage Tupac in front of frenzied fans, you are suddenly brought back to a prison interview from earlier in his career.
The first half drags on and on while you are subjected to a weird transition of scenes and events with sketchily introduced characters. The editing and screenwriting leave a lot to be desired.
However, the film somehow finds its way in the second half, becoming far more interesting as the drama of 2Pac’s controversial involvement with Death Row Records head, Suge Knight, and the East Coast/West Coast rap grouse unfolds.
Here’s how the story progresses in the film:
* The framing device of 2Pac being interviewed during his prison sentence and reflecting back on his life and career up until that point. The interview takes place during the nine months he spent at the Clinton Correctional Facility in 1995.
FYI “The Framing Device is a narrative technique in which a story is surrounded (“framed”) by a secondary story, creating a story within a story, often through Separate Scene Storytelling. The inner story is usually the bulk of the work. The framing device places the inside story within a different context.” (http://tvtropes.org)
* Flashback to his New York Childhood
* His moves to Baltimore and Oakland
* Close friendship in his teens with Jada Pinkett played by Kat Graham
* Shot at stardom when he was asked to join Digital Underground
* 1992 role as a stone-cold sociopath in “Juice” (it was a sterling performance by 2Pac which, some say, had an influence on his off-screen demeanor.
* His captivating early solo videos for tracks like “Same Song” and the social-protest rap “Brenda’s Got a Baby.”
Up until this point, the presentation of the storyline was rather documentary-like. It is only after he goes to prison that the movie finds a foothold.
Primarily, the premise of “All Eyez on Me” is the incident that resulted in rape charges against 2Pac and members of his entourage.
2Pac is found guilty of first-degree sexual abuse and is sent to prison. However, the movie has been presented in a way that attempts to exonerate 2Pac of any wrongdoing; the truth may have been different.
To save himself from the tribulations of prison life he gets into a deal with Marion “Suge” Knight, the 350-pound mountain of a man who is the entrepreneur of Death Row Records.
Ironically, Shakur finds his greatest success and records his greatest song (the momentous “California Love”) while in prison.
Who killed Tupac? The good thing is “All Eyez on Me” doesn’t take any liberty with conspiracy theories. It remains an unsolved drive-by shooting that may or may not have been the fallout of rap wars.
Directed by: Benny Boom
Produced by: David Robinson, L.T. Hutton, James G. Robinson
Written by: Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, Steven Bagatourian
Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper, and Danai Gurira
Music by: John Paesano
Edited by: Joel Cox
Running time: 140 minutes