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With: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Dominic L. Santana, Jamal Woolard, Jarrett Ellis, Brandon Suave, Harold House Moore, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper
Written by: Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, Steven Bagatourian
Directed by: Benny Boom
MPAA Rating: R for language and drug use throughout, violence, some nudity and sexuality
Running Time: 140
Date: 06/16/2017

All Eyez on Me (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Ambitionz Az a Ridah

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. looks right in the role of Tupac Shakur, but the movie, unlike Tupac's own storytelling, is sluggish and generic; it fails to adequately capture the artist's unique genius.

In All Eyez on Me, black activist Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira) is released from prison just weeks before she gives birth to her eldest son, Tupac. Years later, the family has moved from New York to Baltimore to Oakland, and Afeni becomes a drug user. The well-educated Tupac (Demetrius Shipp Jr.) realizes that he must support the family and lands a job performing with hip-hop group Digital Underground.

This quickly leads to his own mercurial solo career, but despite many huge hits, he never seems to have any money. There are many brushes with the law and legal fees keep climbing. In prison for a sexual harassment charge, he signs with Death Row records, run by the notorious Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana). Suddenly Tupac has freedom, but at a price. A new kind of violence enters into his life, and September of 1996 is fast approaching.

Director Benny Boom is a maker of music videos and has directed one other feature, the terrible Next Day Air. Working from a screenplay by three writers, he frames the movie with Tupac giving an interview to a journalist while in prison. It's an old device, and it allows the filmmaker to smooth over, or ignore, the more challenging aspects of Shakur's life.

All Eyez on Me — named for Shakur's 1996 double-LP masterpiece — proceeds through chunks of time, showing what happened, but not especially how or why. Some events are covered so lazily, and some characters are so poorly introduced, that only die-hard fans that already know the story can fill in the blanks.

On the plus side, the music sequences are dynamic and truly come alive thanks to Shipp's dynamic embodiment of the performer, and with Tupac's actual recordings used. But this is an unworthy movie, and viewers would be better off checking out his "Live at the House of Blues" video, or his performances in movies like Juice or Gridlock'd.

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