Friday, June 16, 2017
ny times review all eyez on me
During his brief fireball of a career, the rapper Tupac Shakur was a galvanic, frequently confounding figure. “All Eyez on Me,” a fictionalized film biography of Shakur, directed by Benny Boom and starring Demetrius Shipp Jr., is not only a clumsy and often bland account of his life and work, but it also gives little genuine insight into his thought, talent or personality.
That missed opportunity resonates particularly at the movie’s end, when text lists an impressive number of statistics concerning his record sales and motion picture appearances. Viewers are also reminded that Shakur was only 25 when he died in September 1996 after being fatally injured in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. His killing has never been solved.
From the opening, Mr. Boom’s direction is uniformly uninspired: A reporter’s prison interview with Shakur frames the movie’s first half, and Mr. Boom blocks and shoots his scenes with dismal stolidness. Few sequences last longer than a couple of minutes; the movie plods along with a “and then this happened” dutifulness, occasionally cutting back to the prison interview to have the reporter ask a pointed question or two. This almost invariably allows the film to excuse Shakur for bad actions that the reporter brings up during the interview. (Speaking of which, the movie is genuinely distasteful in its casual misogyny when depicting the sexual abuse case for which Shakur was convicted in 1994.)
“Your stepdaddy is a revolutionary,” Afeni, played by Danai Gurira, tells the young Tupac. “I’m gonna be a revolutionary,” he replies.
Almost all the dialogue is that flat-footed. (Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian wrote the script.) It’s a stark contrast to the almost always vivid power of Shakur’s own words, which could be profoundly empathetic and pettily profane. Not enough of them are heard here, but when Mr. Shipp has some of them at his disposal, or is given enough space in a scene to maneuver into an actual characterization, he is very impressive. This movie fails his considerable talents; I hope that he is soon afforded a better vehicle for them.
Mr. Boom has genuinely good reason to chronicle Shakur’s eventful life even before his birth. Shakur’s mother, Afeni, who died last year, was a civil rights activist and a Black Panther; an early scene shows her emerging victorious from a conspiracy trial a month before giving birth to him.