All Eyez On Me
review by Bobby Blakey
After the success of Straight Outta Compton and to a lesser degree 2009s Notorious it has proven that biopics of these iconic hip hop stars can bring great stories to the big screen. Now one of the greatest MC’s of all time 2 Pac is getting his life treatment in the feature film All Eyez On Me named after his double album of the same name. The film stars Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper, Jamal Woolard, Danai Gurira, Dominic L. Santana and Annie Ilonzeh with Demetrius Shipp Jr stepping into the role of Tupac and Jamal Woolard reprising his Notorious role as the Notorious B.I.G., but does this film do justice to the iconic star or will it fail to let his voice be heard?
All Eyez On Me follows the true and untold story of prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur. The film follows Shakur from his early days in New York City to his evolution into being one of the world's most recognized and influential voices before his untimely death at the age of 25. Against all odds, Shakur's raw talent, powerful lyrics and revolutionary mind-set propelled him into becoming a cultural icon whose legacy continues to grow long after his passing. Let me start by saying I love Tupac and was lucky enough to not only discover him for myself with his first album 2Pacalypse Now, but live through and follow the events of his life and career until his untimely murder in 1996. That being said I will admit that I am likely a bit biased about this film going in, but also recognize the good and bad of it all. I really enjoyed this film as a whole, but it is a bit fragmented. The issue here comes more about the amount of things to cover in his life through such a short time which is near impossible. The film runs almost 2 ½ hours which is just not enough time to give all these moments the time they need to fully be realized.
Where the film does work is that they don’t gloss over to many things and inject quite a bit in without feeling too rushed all the time. There are some elements that felt the rush, but they worked really hard to keep it cohesive enough so not to lose the audience. There is an element of a prison interview Pac is giving to tell the story that I assume was there so that we as the audience not only got the back story, but also Pac’s reflections and thoughts on them, but I felt it was not needed and actually slowed the film down. These elements weren’t bad, but had they just told the story in chronological order it might have been able to fit more in and spend more time on numerous elements that deserved it.
This is a small issue for me though as the story here of all the public known feuds, cases, music, movies and interviews showcased brought back a flood of memories seeing all this unfold in real time for me. I remember feeling lost after hearing of his death and still remember where I was at that time. This film showed me the other side of the event and then those memories came back. All of this is works thanks to an insanely incredible performance from Demetrius Shipp Jr. He not only looks nearly exactly like the real Tupac, but he captured his essence and mannerisms to perfection. There were some elements that just could not have been recreated, but damn if he didn’t bring Pac back to life in this film. The rest of the cast all did a great job with Jamal Woolard once again killing it as Biggie. If there were any complaints it same in more the likeness side of some of those like Dre and Snoop although if that wasn’t Snoop’s actual voice dubbed over then that guy is brilliant.
In the end this film doesn’t offer up the complete tale that Tupac’s legacy deserves, but that just comes down to more of the fact that the man offered up and did more in his 25 years than most. Maybe someone else will come down the line and do yet another take on his life, but I for one loved what they put together here even if some of it is altered for the film world. Whether you love Pac and his music or not, you should check out this film just to get a better understanding of who the man was which was so much more than just another rap star.
In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including deleted scenes, conversations, interviews and featurettes taking you behing bringing his life to the big screen. Step onto the stage and see the rise of an icon with All Eyez On Me available now on Digital HD and then on Blu-ray and DVD on September 5th from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.