“We Got A Big Platform, Man. Use That Platform To Make A Change…”
Being in complete ignorance of most things hip-hop, rap and the late 1980’s, early 1990’s wave of prominent American gangsta music, my expectations heading into All Eyez on Me, a biographical dramatisation of Californian rapper Tupac Shakur, is muddled to say the least. On the one hand, the surprising critical success of Straight Outta Compton, a similarly biographical drama of rap sensation, N.W.A, has somewhat made me quietly optimistic for yet another effectively played cinematic treat, yet on the other, my complete inability to name probably even the most famous of Tupac tracks probably doesn’t exactly make me part of the top-end target audiences for a film which is bound to succeed in the eyes of many. Whilst director Benny Boom succeeds in terms of casting, with lead star Demetrius Shipp Jr. being a dead ringer for the fallen rap star, All Eyez on Me is a flawed, overlong and genuinely quite confusing drama, one which fails to live up to the sharp, dangerous power of a film such as Straight Outta Compton but does succeed on some levels due to some dedicated performances from many of its’ relatively unknown leading stars.
Amidst a ridiculous amount of annoying fade-out edits which not only ruin the fundamental storytelling throughout the drama but makes George Lucas look like the master of the long-held camera shot, All Eyez on Me suffers from being a tale which ultimately seems designed only for fanboys of the music genre it is attempting to portray, using on-screen depictions of real individuals in a manner so scarcely and sparingly that the lack of characterisation results in plot threads which I inevitably struggled to keep up with, something of which I didn’t find in Straight Outta Compton. Add into the matter a jarring level of misogyny in terms of the treatment of most of the women characters on-screen, Boom’s film is somewhat anchored in place by a star-in-the-making performance from lead Shipp Jr., whilst The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira is also rather exceptional as Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s inspirational mother. With the film’s 140 minute runtime, it comes as no surprise that the film does begin to wander in places, but the seedy and daring subject matter at the heart of the true story is interesting enough to warrant being viewed by even the most trivial of rap fans, if using the film only to garner a brief understanding on the complexities of rap’s leading icon.
Overall Score: 6/10
Let’s get this out of the way first before any problems or missteps arise within this review of F. Gary Gray’s new film Straight Outta Compton, when it comes to the rise of prominent hip hop in the early 1990’s, N.W.A, and the story of their own personal rise and fall, I am not exactly the most well-informed person regarding such, with my only reference for music of that particular genre being the wonderful GTA: San Andreas (Thank god for Radio Los Santos). Pitiful I know, but whilst I was only aware briefly of the impact of the N.W.A in the 1990’s, Straight Outta Compton proved to be an eye-opening biographical epic focusing on the early outset of the group and their titular debut album, focusing most prominently on our “heroes”, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E. Although the key concept of the movie may indeed not be for everyone, with me being classed as an outsider myself, Straight Outta Compton proved to be one of the most incredible journeys in film I have witnessed this year, following in the footsteps of The Social Network in telling a story not exactly with widespread appeal, but resulting in something rather brilliant.
What makes Straight Outta Compton work so well is the effortless fashion in which our young actors portray their characters on-screen, with Jason Mitchell’s Eazy-E in particular being one of the many standout performers, whilst Paul Giamatti as the slimey corporate megalomaniac, Jerry Heller, doing exceptionally well in trying to be as shadowy and ambiguous as he possibly can. With all the on-screen cameos featuring actors portraying younger versions of famous faces such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur however, characters were so-often lost and forgotten about within the space of minutes, resulting in minor plot threads seemingly going awry, suggesting that sometimes the scope of Straight Outta Compton was in fact too big to handle, resulting in a film that wants to say more, but ultimately can’t due to restrictions on its’ time length, something of which was already too long to say the least at a mortifying two and a half hours.
Of course the music is great, with track after track being blasted out through the cinema speakers, and even though my minor hip hop knowledge was brought to the table, it didn’t stop me from enjoying every single beat, rap and lyric that boom-boxed it’s way onto me at a volume turned way past eleven, whilst the concert scenes were managed triumphantly, unlike the misogynistic portrayal of women that unfortunately crept up on occasion throughout the course of the film’s runtime. The acting is wonderful, the story, inspiring, and although Straight Outta Compton has some rather dashing flaws, I indeed enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and probably more than I should, with N.W.A locking firmly in my playlist for the next couple of weeks or so.
Overall Score: 8/10
I’m currently on my 3rd run through of the album and I find it really difficult to deal with the excessive amounts of “UH”& “Yeah”. For a rapper at the top of the rapping tables, he doesn’t really show it in this album.
So lyrically, the album is really poor. The album talks about tweeting, sex and how much money he has. “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” features Rick Ross and it encompasses exactly what I said prior. Except, Instead of Ross shouting out that he is the “Teflon Don”, it was Jay-Z linking to Lucky Luciano. I won’t go on a rant about how pathetic this is but both of these guys have done nothing to compare themselves to some of the biggest criminals in history.
The execution of the tracks are alright. Vocals are ranged and have a variety of featuring artists. Yet you never feel the songs, they just blend into the background and don’t really excite you and the actual music doesn’t make you want to dance or give you any sort of boost to your day. Personally, I feel the album suggests that Jay-Z has lost his classic 99 Problems and Blueprint ability. I’m giving this album a 5/10.