Benny Boom, the music video director/indie filmmaker behind Next Day Air and 48 Hours to Live, has been given a chance to swim in a larger pond with the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me. On paper, this should work. Boom’s been working upwards to larger projects, and the source material is certainly in his wheelhouse.
The hard truth is that All Eyez on Me is watered-down, way too long, and it rarely works as an insightful biopic. As expected, Boom explodes during scenes of nostalgia where Tupac (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) performs to countless fans. However, yet again, the filmmaker becomes preoccupied with flashier components. His glossy film casually leaves gaps in the narrative to make room for action-packed confrontations of gangster violence.
After the film rolled, I was wondering why Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, was left off this project only to find out that she passed away in May of last year. It does put Afeni’s love and contribution in perspective though. 2003’s Tupac: Resurrection was an impassioned project featuring duel looks at the artist – a sensitive behind-the-scenes peek and a dissection of his controversial mainstream image. It was a stand-up Oscar nominee that Afeni was faithfully attached to. With All Eyez on Me, the viewer feels this loss of substance. All Eyez on Me has been made to be nothing more than an “acceptable” dedication. It uses multiple genre tropes, melodrama, and a cop-out structure that guarantees spoon-fed exposition to craft a predictable emotional experience, but stops short of diving underneath its tough exterior.
There are hints of potential, such as the moment Tupac catches his mom (Danai Gurira) buying drugs from local hood rats, the tense race relations the rapper experienced first-hand, and a heated debate over Tupac’s risqué tune “Brenda’s Got a Baby”. But, it’s all just a snapshot in a life that was also filled with gang violence and stand-offs that the film deems as more important.
I suppose the film could be a reflection on how Tupac Shakur became involved in an artistic culture that he wanted to resist only to become a profitable pioneer of. That’s a downer, but it’d be an honest portrayal of how fame can catapult an artist in unfavourable, toxic directions in exchange for money and power. I wonder what Afeni Shakur would think about that.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie