After appearing in Notorious and Straight Outta Compton, it’s about time that Tupac got his own film. All Eyez on Me is a whistlestop tour of his entire life, from utero to his untimely killing aged 25.
The film is structured as an interview with Tupac while in jail, as he recounts key moments in his life. In this sense it’s less Straight Outta Compton, more The Iron Lady. Both suffer from the same flaw of seeking to show key moments without much stringing them together, and both films undermine a strong central performance with cack-handed writing and direction.
The film improves when it abandons the interview structure and lets the scenes speak for themselves. At this point the scenes start to flow from one to the next and it becomes much more watchable. Unfortunately this only makes up the final twenty minutes or so of 140, and is too little, too late.
While it leaves open the question of who was responsible for Tupac’s murder, there’s one character who can do no wrong, and that’s Tupac himself. If you thought Straight Outta Compton and Notorious were rose-tinted you aint seen nothing yet.
Those films at least showed some of their characters’ dark sides. All Eyez on Me paints Tupac as rapping Gandhi, who was continuously victimised by forces beyond his control.
Demetrius Shipp Jr looks exactly like Tupac, and gives a solid performance, even if he lacks Tupac’s presence. A bigger issue is the fact it’s he can’t rap, made plainly obvious thanks to the lengths the film goes to to avoid him having to do so. When required to sing he lipsyncs badly to perfectly produced Tupac records, even when he’s meant to be in the recording studio. When he’s required to go a capella, the camera quickly averts its gaze. They might as well have just got that hologram in.
The real highlight is Jarrett Ellis as Snoop Doog, who doesn’t look much like him but captures the voice perfectly. When the inevitable Snoop Dogg film is made (please?), he’s surely a strong contender for the role. Dominic L Santana is an impressive presence as Suge Knight; a man who has been portrayed in a libelous way on film so many times I can only assume his whacking days are behind him.
Interestingly it’s Jada Pinkett-Smith who has raised concerns about the accuracy of her portrayal (“Tupac never read me that poem”) while Knight is apparently happy with his portrayal as West Side Al Capone.
Clunky scenes and clumsy dialogue ruin what could have been another great hip hop movie, with a great rapper’s tale told in nursery rhyme.