- Actors: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Dominic L. Santana, Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan
- Director: Benny Boom
- Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Region: Region A/1
- Number of discs: 2
- Rated: R
- Studio: LIONSGATE
- Release Date: September 5, 2017
- Run Time: 140 minutes
All Eyez on Me plays like a greatest hits album, hitting all of the expected plot points of the rapper’s short life and career, without any of the context from the full albums. It reads like a list of occurrences, without any real soul attached to the story or filmmaking. Sure, we get to see an actor play out the controversial interviews about his tattoos and the contradiction of his words and his actions, in-between staged performances of popular songs, but there is no life in the narrative. It feels like a checklist, a collection of scenes that are loosely connected. Somehow too long to remain interesting and too short to cover the amount of material accurately, All Eyez on Me may have been better as a TV miniseries or a shorter and more focused film.
John Singleton was originally attached to direct the film, but parted ways when his vision wasn’t the same as the producers. Instead, All Eyez on Me is directed by Benny Boom, whose credits are primarily filled with music videos and random TV episodes. This is extremely clear by the way the film lacks focus, and also by the tendency to put the spotlight more on the iconic songs used as the background for scenes than the drama actually unfolding in the dialogue. The screenplay by Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian does not make his job any easier, as it attempts to cover every significant event in the rapper’s life without actually giving any of these moments the time necessary for them to resonate. This means a fast-forward journey through a young Tupac’s childhood and teen years, after even giving background about his rebellious mother prior to him being born. Not that we need another one, but it feels like Boom and his screenwriters would have been better suited to make a documentary about the rapper.
Even with the early background cluttering the movie, a majority of the film focuses on his young adult years, with look-alike Detrius Shipp, Jr. playing the icon. But the similar looks and demeanor aren’t enough for this inexperienced actor to carry the film, though it often feels as though the filmmakers thought this would be enough. As the film scrolls through the list of events in Tupac’s life, the entire endeavor starts to resemble the cinematic version of a lip-sync performance. The greatest hope for the film is that it will remind you of how much Tupac did with his 25 years, if only because the movie tries to cram it all in.
There is no narrative flow to carry us from one sequence to another, so that the film just plays like a series of vignettes. We see Tupac as he records and performs iconic tracks (even mistakenly including one that wasn’t released until after he had died), as well as giving us brief glimpses of him on set for his best remembered film roles. When it comes to the actual events of his life, the storyline tends to dwell on his financial issues and the disagreements that ensued because of them. Even his rivalries with other rappers just feel superficial, painting the icon to be far more childish and petty than most would likely rather remember him. His poetic interviews are altered to make him seem like an immature hypocrite. In short, All Eyez on Me does more to tear down the legend of Tupac than it does to continue it. As I was watching the film, I couldn’t help but feel that his legacy was at its height in the 1990s, and this film is evidence of how much it has quietly subsided since then.
The Blu-ray release comes with a DVD and Digital HD copy of the film. The high definition is less significant for the visuals of the film, which don’t often impress despite Boom’s experience in the stylized medium of music videos. Where the film does take advantage of the higher quality is the sound, although the levels seem off. The bass shook my entire home whenever one of the iconic song tracks began playing, while the dialogue was so low that I was constantly struggling to hear what was said. This meant I was often turning the volume up or down to counter the difference.
Despite being overlong, the special features still include about 8 minutes of deleted scenes. There is also a making-of featurette that is almost 25-minutes long, as well as a 35-minute roundtable conversation about Tupac’s influence. The newcomer playing the central role is also given focus, with Shipp’s audition footage included alongside a featurette about his journey to become the rapper, including losing weight to closer resemble him.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 4/10
Special Features: 7/10