All Eyez on Me

Tupac Shakur is one of those celebrity figures who arguably has achieved a bigger following after his death than he ever had while he was alive. The pedestrian biopic All Eyez on Me, however, can’t seem to grasp the scope of his influential legacy on music and pop culture.

There are efforts in that direction, as well as an attempt to chronicle the details of the rapper’s life prior to his mysterious 1996 death at age 25, at the height of his fame. Yet it’s often so straightforward and celebratory that it lacks the rebellious spirit of its uniquely talented subject.

The film benefits from a charismatic performance by newcomer Demetrius Shipp, whose physical resemblance to Shakur is almost eerie and whose mimicry of his speech and mannerisms hits the mark.

Much of the story is told in flashback, via a prison interview between Shakur and a reporter (Hill Harper). It tells about his childhood in Harlem with his single Black Panther mother (Danai Gurira), where he developed an easygoing charm along with a fearless tendency for inflammatory lyrics.

Shakur’s career shifted him primarily to the West Coast, beginning with the rap group Digital Underground and eventually to solo projects under the auspices of notorious producer Suge Knight (Dominic Santana), when he adopted his rebellious “Thug Life” persona and essentially became the face of 1990s “gangsta” rap.

Thus began his tumultuous life in the spotlight, filled with legal troubles, artistic breakthroughs, and highly publicized relationships, including to his engagement to model Kidada Jones (Annie Ilonzeh). His murder in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting remains unsolved despite evidence pointing to Knight’s involvement.

Prolific music-video director Benny Boom (Next Day Air) fails to bring much flair to the material. The melodramatic screenplay apparently takes some liberties with the specifics of Shakur’s relationships and rise to fame, and it certainly seems more dedicated to emphasizing his triumphs rather than dwelling on his shortcomings. While the film deserves credit for comprehensiveness, it’s limited in terms of genuine insight into his career that his fans won’t already know.

All Eyez on Me, which shares a name with Shakur’s final (and most commercially successful) studio album before his death, ultimately seems content to adhere to biopic formula instead of capturing the depth and diversity of his ongoing appeal. Shakur probably would have wanted, and deserved, better.


Rated R, 139 minutes.