Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Review: All Eyez on Me

Review: All Eyes on Me
Year: 2017
Director: Benny Boom
Screenplay: Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, Steven Bagatourian
Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper, Danai Gurira

Synopsis is here:

It's been over 20 years since the shooting of Tupac Shakur left a gaping hole in hip-hop. Of all the artists that have graced the genre, it still seems that his star shines brightest. This appears to be down to his ability to be a walking contradiction. He was both saint and sinner. A brash and aggressive artist behind the mic, his vicious well-known beefs with other musical artists are juxtaposed with his sensitivity and politics. Consider his crass dismissal of the late rapper Prodigy's sickle cell anaemia on the end of Hit em Up. Then compare it to well-known song hit Changes. 2Pac had the both the ability to be the epitome of white Americas worst enemy and the modern-day poet of black Americas struggle. If he had not passed away, it is this writers opinion, that it would be Shakur that many would be looking to in the wake of the continuous police shootings of young black men.

I never truly gelled with 2Pac. I spent a few days going over his back catalogue before heading to a screening of this film, and still, I find myself leaning towards Biggie Smalls musically (as the kids say, don’t @ me). After watching All Eyez on Me, I discovered that I even enjoyed Biggie Smalls on the silver screen, over 2Pac. Notorious (2009) may be cliched and somewhat biased to its producer (one Sean “Puffy” Combs), but it was at least enjoyable where it mattered. All Eyez on Me struggles on so many levels, it’s truly disheartening. Even for a person who is not a 2Pac fan, it's hard not to admire his charisma. An animated and forthright character, his tragic story is one fit for Shakespeare. I do not say this as hyperbole. What this man did to alter the scope and range of his music is far-reaching. All Eyez on Me film doesn't even touch the lower peaks of what this man did. There was word previously that two 2Pac biopics wherein the works. If this is true, that I hope that this is not the best one.

Where can we start? Shall we talk about the rushed, glossed over details of Shakur’s life that the film places as mere footnotes as opposed to defining moments? We could perhaps mention the lacklustre concert set pieces, which capture none of the energy and vibrancy of an artist at their peak? Coachella had a far livelier hologram 5 years ago. Could we mention that a lot of this stems from a rather dead-eyed performance from Demetrius Shipp Jr, an actor who looks the part more than inhabits the role? Maybe we should start with a rather minimal amount of music used from an artist who was well-known for holding a vast back catalogue despite his young age.

The fact is, these issues combine to create a film which leans more towards a made for T.V movie than a powerful cinematic portrait. All Eyez on Me is the type of film which takes happily uses a famous relationship with Jada Pinkett Smith as an awkward narrative crutch than a serious friendship held by the characters. Nearly every key moment is observed from a distance, devoid of any real emotion. The film constantly suggests that Shakur has money woes, but does so without any key insight. The film never really gets under the hood of a performer who was both conflicting externally as an artist and internally as a man. Straight Outta Compton (2015) may have been incredibly slick, but it’s a film which frames the plight of the group against the social climate as well and the internal conflicts of the group. All Eyez on Me is so limp wristed with 2pacs strengths, it’s hard to believe in its lead character as a social leader or a flagrant womaniser. Merely draping attractive, half-naked women around hotel rooms do little to convince.

This probably won’t deter faithful 2Pac fans, who have been waiting for years to see the man’s story appear on the big screen. One thing All Eyez on Me’s flat screenplay does is highlight just how rich Shakur’s story really could be. The film’s climactic credits remind us just how much the man achieved in his short life. It’s a pity that, save for a powerfully determined performance from Danai Gurira as Tupac’s ex Blak Panther mother, that All Eyez on Me has very little to say.