“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.