'All Eyez On Me' Review: A Biopic That's As Powerful As It Is Neccessary


The untimely deaths of transcendent musicians can have a profound impact on the music and social landscapes that they leave behind.

Tupac Shakur is one of those musicians; he was a truly visionary artist whose name and legacy have rippled down through the years, so that even the youth of today are well aware of both his music, and of the impact he had on those he left behind.

His story is particularly sad, not just because his death was so tragic and premature, but because the world was denied a supremely talented rapper and important political and social icon for people to look up to.

All Eyez On Me, named after Shakur’s fourth studio album, is an insightful, emotional, moving, and above all else, powerful biopic, that seems all the more important and necessary given America’s current social issues – where racism and classicism are evidently just as prevalent in society as ever before.

The film tells the story of the rapper’s life, from his humble beginnings in 1970’s New York, where he was privy to his mother and step-father’s exploits in the Black Panthers, a revolutionary black nationalist and socialist organisation, to his early acting career and subsequent introduction into the music industry, where he was catapulted into super-stardom whilst at the same time becoming embroiled in several legal cases up to his death – which included a well-documented sexual assault case for which he was incarcerated for nine months in 1995.

With any biopic, most of the attention is on the titular character, and Demetrius Shipp Jr’s portrayal of Tupac is as accurate and memorable as you’re likely to see. Not only does he bear a striking resemblance to the rapper, he also manages to demonstrate all the charisma and charm that Tupac was loved for. The only slight knock would be his rapping, or lack thereof, which is simply left to a pre-recorded backing track and some crafty hand movement/camerawork to hide the fact that Shipp is miming. It’d would have been nice to see him attempt that infamous style and flow made famous by the rapper, much like Jamal Woolard did in Notorious, who incidentally also stars as B.I.G. in this film.

In fact, you can’t really watch the film without thinking of Notorious and indeed, Straight Outta Compton, and it feels as though All Eyez On Me could be the third film in a rap trilogy that tells the lives of three of its most influential artists. The film also portrays a whole host of familiar faces such as Jada Pinkett, Faith Evans, and Snoop Dogg – the latter played by Jarrett Ellis, who does the most accurate impression of the rapper I’ve ever heard.

Of course, the soundtrack is as brilliant as you’d expect from a movie like this, as we follow Tupac through his formative years as an MC for Digital Underground, before branching off into a solo career and ultimately moving to California to join Suge Knight and Dr. Dre at Death Row Records where he released the iconic single California Love and his crowing glory, All Eyez On Me.

Going into the film I was expecting this meteoric rise to the summit of the music industry to take precedent as the main focus of the film, but actually, his music career plays second fiddle to the political and social climate that he lived through. Thematically, it’s pretty dense too; police brutality, black on black crime, the civil rights movement, substance abuse, White America, political and judicial corruption – there’s a lot going on, and it’s way more than just a ‘rap’ film.

The movie doesn’t shy away from Pac’s chequered past either, which only adds to the credibility of the film, addressing many of his misdemeanours and mistakes whilst acknowledging that behind the celebrity and bravado, Tupac was above all else, a real person, who before all the fame and fortune, had as tough a life as anyone could.

Leaving the cinema I had one overriding feeling; ‘what could have been.’ Tupac was a rapper murdered in his prime – ultimately denying the world of countless albums and influential music that would have no doubt changed the culture of rap music forever. But not just that, African-Americans, and indeed, America, lost a leader for social justice – a true revolutionary who wanted to make a positive difference one step at a time. One can only wonder what he would have gone on to achieve had he lived, but a quote of his from the film seems as poignant a place to end as any:

“I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”

Maybe he just might.

All Eyez On Me is scheduled to be released on 30th June in the United Kingdom and 16th June in the United States.

Images via Summit Entertainment

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