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|All Eyez on Me
dir Benny Boom
scr Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, Steven Bagatourian
prd LT Hutton, David Robinson, James G Robinson
with Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh, Dominic L Santana, Jamal Woolard, Rayan Lawrence, Keith Robinson, Lauren Cohan, Cory Hardrict, Rayven Symone Ferrell, Jamie Hector
release US 16.Jun.17, UK 30.Jun.17
17/US Morgan Creek 2h20
Straight outta Harlem: Shipp
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
This ambitious biopic of Tupac Shakur tries to include every key incident from his life, plus everyone he knew. The result is bewildering to anyone unfamiliar with his story or unable to recognise actors impersonating famous people. So it plays out as a series of disconnected scenes that build to Shakur's 1996 murder. It's energetic and full of cool moments, but never breaks the surface.
Born in 1971 New York and raised by his activist mother Afeni (Gurira), Tupac (Shipp) shows early aptitude for music, theatre and dance at art school with best friend Jada Pinkett (Graham). Then the family moves to Northern California, where the teen becomes politically active as a professional rapper. But his record label never pays him, and his temper lands him in trouble. After one stint in prison, Suge Knight (Santana) brings him to Death Row Records and even more fame. But Tupac becomes embroiled in a feud with East Coast rapper Biggie Smalls (Woolard).
The screenplay never creates a narrative path through this life, instead presenting a series of encounters marked with snappy attitude and uncontrolled anger. Scenes are lively, but it's never clear who all of these shouting, punching, shooting people are. And much of this rage is expressed through lyrics that are impossible to decipher on a first listen. Still, the musical sequences are terrific, both on-stage and in studios, capturing the songs' rhythmic power.
Shipp does what he can with this underwritten role. His physical resemblance is almost eerie, and his exuberance makes this rather saintly version of Tupac properly magnetic, even if he remains enigmatic. The oddest thing is the utter lack of a personal life. Despite being surrounded by half-naked women, Tupac seems asexual. His relationship with fiancee Kidada (Ilonzeh) barely exists on-screen. And his various friendships are equally ill-defined.
Oddly, the filmmakers miss the irony of Shakur's story: this is a man who began as an artist and human rights activist, then ended up fuelling a petty war of words that probably cost him his life. The juxtaposition of peaceful philosophy and big guns is fascinating, but the movie never comments on that. By failing to at least depict these things more honestly, and with a hint of complexity, this never becomes more than a choppily condensed look at one man's life. So it misses the impact Shakur's art continues to have.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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