Film Review: All Eyez On Me

A confession at the outset would be in order: though musically inclined, I am neither a fan nor an aficionado of the rap denomination of music. All Eyez On Me is the short-lived but eventful life led by rapper, actor, lyricist and activist Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) — his mother Afeni (Danai Gurira) was a staunch member of the Black Panther party.

The film opens with journalist Hill Harper interviewing Tupac in prison. In between questions — a few of them pointed and leading — Tupac is shown evolving from a child to the renowned rap artiste he was. It was, reportedly, his love for Shakespeare that enabled him to rap coherently and consistently. His mother’s radicalism had a deep influence on her son who seemed to share a platonic bond with his schoolmate Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham), who later became a film star.

A runtime of almost 140 minutes barely seems proportional to the short but momentous and remarkable life that Shakur led. His relationship with the owner of the appropriately named Death Row Records Surge Knight (Dominic L. Santana, himself a singer) is sought to the portrayed explicitly.  But not so the 1993 sexual assault case, for which he was incarcerated.

The title of the film is taken from his 1996 album of the same name. ‘I don’t want you to support me, I need you to understand me’, says Tupac at one point in the film. There are not-so-oblique references to the ‘racist, fascist and imperialistic’ USA of the early 70s when Tupac was growing up in New York. The ‘nigger’ word too is used with abandon and the film is laden with expletives. One may thank our censor board’s sagacity in deleting these expletives; the gap caused by the deletion act like speed-breakers in the middle of the sentence and lead to incoherence most of the time. Though the film stays true to its subject for the most part, it fails to resonate in a deep and passionate way.  Demetrius Shipp Jr., in his first feature film, with a striking resemblance to the famous rapper, is impressive. Not so is Domnic Santana. Director Benny Boom, who has directed several music videos, has done an average job.

Murdered at the untimely age of 25 (his murder is unresolved till this day) — the first artiste in history to have a No. 1 album while in prison and with 713 songs and 7 films behind him, this film will most likely appeal to his fans.


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