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Saturday, Dec 07, 2019

All Eyez On Me movie review: This film on Tupac talks of issues far beyond the realm of music

All Eyez On Me might be about Tupac and his insane lifestyle, but it guides our attention to issues far beyond the realm of music. Here’s our movie review.

movie-reviews Updated: Jul 12, 2017 08:49 IST
Rohit Vats
Rohit Vats
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tupac Shakur was one of the most controversial rapper during the ‘90s.
Tupac Shakur was one of the most controversial rapper during the ‘90s.

All Eyez On Me
Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira
Director: Benny Boom
Rating: 3/5

Friday would have been Tupac Shakur’s 46th birthday.

As per estimates, the legendary American hip-hop singer has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Most of the music magazines put him among the most influential underground artistes the West has ever seen. But why is this important? For one simple reason: He was only 25 when he was murdered.

Benny Boom’s All Eyez On Me, which also happens to be the title of one of Shakur’s biggest hits, tries to take a neutral look at the black icon who could have done much more for his community and music if his focus hadn’t flickered. However, a 25-year-old pop superstar with an ever rising fan base had all the reasons to not become very serious about the ideals he once embraced.

All Eyez On Me begins in New York when Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), associated with the Black Panther Party, gives birth to Lesane Parish Crooks aka Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr). She is a fierce activist and wants the best for her community which doesn’t seem to know much beyond Harlem and Bronx. From there, it traces the life and times of Tupac who went on to become one of the most loved, innovative, brave and controversial singers that exploded on America’s music scene during the ’90s.

It’s much more than just that, because it weaves moments that will touch the lives of millions, especially the oppressed and marginalised all over the world.

Primarily a documentation of Tupac’s life through the eyes of a presumably impartial journalist who interviews Tupac during one of his many jail terms, All Eyez On Me tries to appear like a documentary on the condition of the African-American community in the US. It succeeds also because it makes you really uncomfortable at times and forces you to take notice.

All Eyez On Me makes uncomfortable at times.
All Eyez On Me makes uncomfortable at times.

The film might be about Tupac and his insane lifestyle, but it takes us through issues far beyond the realm of music. It’s a world where crime could be the most humble defence against apathy, victimisation and subjugation.

The fans of contemporary hip-hop artistes usually take the angry sledging as granted in their favourite songs, but this trend gained momentum in the late ’80s and early ’90s when music became the escape point from harsh realities for many who were overlooked by the state burdened with the upliftment and progress of certain communities. It wasn’t an inclusive growth.

All Eyez On Me could have been a much better film.
All Eyez On Me could have been a much better film.

Our social structure isn’t much different and we have gone through similar phases of development. The state has always found it difficult to distribute resources as many would grab it before the others. This is why we establish an immediate connection with Tupac Shakur despite witnessing his self-destructible ways. He looks more like a derailed genius than a motivated criminal.

This is just one side of his life though. He was also sentenced to jail on many occasions. If Tupac’s story was a sub-plot in Snoop Dogg’s story, he might have seemed like a compulsive criminal. On top of that, he was stabbed, shot at, twice, accused of rape too. Not to forget his misogynistic lyrics and theatrics to rise in the ranks.

Watch: Tupac Shakur’s Me Against The World

Demetrius Shipp Jr pours his heart out as the jovial, unpredictable rapper who was still in the process of realising his true potential. What he achieved at 25 will continue to remain a dream for the biggest of hip-hop superstars. It’s because of him that All Eyez On Me has become something more than mere chronicling the events in Tupac Shakur’s life.

You’ll wish for more, as the film shies from delving deep. His affiliation to Death Row and rivalry with The Notorious Big are featured, but they don’t tell you anything that you already don’t know. It’s not Straight Outta Compton.

But All Eyez On Me has a definite appeal and its biggest strength is the earnest performance by Demetrius Shipp Jr. He makes the rapper likeable despite his obvious flaws.

Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha