I must confess going into this review that I knew next to nothing about the late rapper Tupac Shakur. I knew about his genre of music, I knew a couple of songs and I knew the vague circumstances surrounding his life and death. This may put me in a different category to some of you reading the review and indeed in a different category to other reviewers out there. With that all being said, this film did not really impress me or move me in any way and, rather strangely, I am not sure I feel particularly enlightened with any more facts about the rapper.
Biopics are a strange breed of film with some covering key parts of a person’s life and others covering the story from cradle to grave. All Eyez On Me is definitely the latter, beginning with Tupac literally in the womb and ending with his untimely death. In between, the audience is subjected to what feels like almost his entire life history, focussing in particular on his major album releases, criminal entanglements and various rivalries.
This brings me to the first real criticism of this movie; its length. This movie is around 2 hours and 20 minutes long and it really feels like it. We are slowly taken through the various and sometimes tragic events of the man’s life but I walked away not really feeling that I really understood him anymore. The performance by Demetrius Shipp Jr in his debut role is competent but I feel the writing does not really allow you to understand the man anymore. There are lots of scenes where an event is shown but it is not used in a way which really helps you relate to Tupac. And for someone who is often revered as a figure of charisma, change and confidence with an ability to really connect with people, the character of Tupac here instead comes across as just a bit arrogant and not very influential at all. Maybe this is how they wanted him portrayed and how he seemed in real life. However, to someone with little knowledge of the real Tupac, I did not really feel a lot for the man, especially when he is shot at the end of the movie (spoiler alert: Tupac is dead).
Another problem I had with the movie is an assumption of knowledge about Tupac. I felt at times a little confused and lost about events taking place in the movie. The writing means that an audience member who knows about the late rapper can fill in the blanks with their knowledge about the rivalries, music choices and criminal record of the man. Instead, I was left thinking, “Why is he now mad with this guy? Why is he trying to give this message with his music? Why is he not being arrested for shooting a cop?” This movie lacks direction and I feel like they needed to condense the movie into a more specific period of the man’s life. Perhaps his time at Death Row Records where there seemed to be so much controversy?
This all sounds like I disliked the movie, which I did not, but it isn’t, from my point of view, a very good movie. The movie is a forgettable and clumsy biopic about an interesting figure of the 90s which just left me wanting something more. Something with more substance and more direction and where I could really feel like I understood the character of Tupac. Perhaps a fan of the rapper could take more from this movie. But I didn’t. Get busy living, don’t get watching.