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Sunday, June 18, 2017

All Eyez on Me

All Eyez on Me, a bio-pic looking at the short but complicated life of rapper Tupac Shakur, was obviously rushed to screens after the surprising box office success of Straight Outta Compton two summers ago.  It shows in literally every way.  This script was not ready to go before the cameras.  It's clumsy, disjointed, bland, and does absolutely nothing to show us the man, his thoughts, or his personality.  It's as deep as a puddle, and runs through the facts of his life with all the insights of a Wikipedia article.

There is absolute no flow to the screenplay credited to three screenwriters, or to the direction by Benny Boom.  Taking the most cut and dry approach they can, the filmmakers simply jump from one moment of his life to the next with absolutely no connecting tissue linking the events, or to the people in Tupac's life.  The only thing they did right was to cast Demetrius Shipp, Jr. in the lead role.  Not only does he look remarkably like Tupac, but he does his best to try to stand out from the material he's been given.  He's up there, giving it his all, and clearly doing his best to portray all the nuances of the man, both good and bad.  But he's fighting a losing battle when it comes to this leaden script, and the uninspired camerawork and direction that Boom uses.

The movie gave me a bad feeling right from the start by using a clumsy and unnecessary prison interview as a framing sequence.  The reporter (Hill Harper) asks Tupac some pointed questions about his life, Tupac looks soulfully off into the distance, and then we are taken into a flashback.  And then another.  And then another.  It gets kind of comical eventually.  Instead of creating a proper narrative flow, the movie just jumps from one event to another, with some scenes only lasting literally less than two minutes before it's on to the next subject.  For example, the reporter will ask about a song that Tupac did, he'll talk a tiny bit about it, and then we see a flash of the music video, before it moves on to the next subject at hand.  Nearly every subject the movie covers, from his mother's early years as a Black Panther, to his close relationship with actress Jada Pinkett (portrayed here by Kat Graham) is treated in such a perfunctory manner, it barely has any weight, nor is it given any time for it to register with the audience.

There is such a casual indifference that All Eyez on Me takes to its subject matter.  The people who raised him, inspired him, helped him in his career or were there in his personal life come across as non-entities throughout the film.  The movie drops the "interview" angle after about the first hour of the film, and focuses on Tupac's career leading up to his mysterious murder (which has never been solved).  This should be intriguing, but again, the movie blunders with its laid back direction, cliched character depictions, and just an absolute lack of skill.  Moments that should be sad or inspiring end up as overly melodramatic.  The people in his life drift in and out of his life as total strangers to us the audience.  Even Tupac himself seems curiously distant to us, as we never truly learn what he thinks about everything that's happening to him.  He comes across as a supporting player in his own life story, due to how the film is content to just skim the surface when it comes to him.

Even the dialogue sounds unnatural at times.  In one early scene, his mother tells a young Tupac that "your daddy was a revolutionary", and the little boy replies with, "I'm going to be a revolutionary too!"  It's this kind of obvious screenwriting that grounds the entire movie.  There are entire scenes that read about as natural as those "dramatizations" you see on sensationalist TV crime shows.  Again, the script refuses to let us get close to Tupac or the people in his life.  It simply moves from one point of his life to the next with wild abandon and no dedication. (The way the movie handles the 1994 sexual abuse case for which Tupac was convicted for is particularly sloppy.) You can tell that the people behind this movie had no real interest in the subject they're covering.  They simply wanted to rush this out in order to meet a date, as the film was released on June 16th, Tupac's birthday. (He would have been 46 this year.)

All Eyez on Me is shockingly bad, and possibly one of the worst films to be made about a music celebrity.  It offers no insights, no opinions, and simply regurgitates facts that fans could learn on any website or article devoted to the man.  When the movie flashes some of his impressive sales and statistics at the end of the film, it feels like we learned more than this nearly two and a half hour feature told us.  I can only hope that somebody tries to cover this topic again with a much better film in the near future.

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