All Eyez on Me, a biopic about the life of legendary rapper Tupac Shakur, sadly doesn’t rise to its fullest potential. With sloppy directing and poor writing, All Eyez on Me surely won’t be winning Tupac any new fans any time soon.
The film attempts to tell the life story of Tupac Shakur through a series of loosely connected events, like a discount version of Straight Outta Compton. We see Shakur’s less than humble beginnings, his rise to fame and fortune, and his subsequent murder. Along the way the audience is introduced to many key figures in the rap genre, each with a unique effect on Shakur.
Many of the problems pertaining to All Eyez on Me take place in the first half of the film. Right off the bat the audience is greeted with a horribly constructed narrative, involving many flashforwards and flashbacks that feel sloppily pasted together. Emotional scenes depicting Shakur’s childhood are consistently cut short in order to cram in as much backstory and setup as possible.
These backstory scenes (as well as the rest of the movie, unfortunately) are chock-full of ham-fisted messages that the filmmakers deemed necessary to shove in your face. The entire film we are told that police officers are one-dimensional villains that only ever harass blacks. We are also only ever told that Tupac is a legend that changed the world with his music. It is never actually shown how Tupac’s music affected people, and never do we get a genuinely well-written encounter between blacks and the police.
I believe this was an attempt to mimic the success of Straight Outta Compton, which also had racial messages and themes. However, unlike here, the messages in Straight Outta Compton flowed naturally from the powerful storytelling and progression of the plot. In All Eyez on Me, everything is too forced, so the messages come out as either cheesy or obnoxiously preachy.
Once you sit through about eighty minutes worth of needlessly complex and melodramatic film, the second half gets progressively better. The filmmaking becomes more coherent, the acting gets much stronger, and the story manages to be more fascinating.
The film also gives the audience an interesting perspective of inner-city life during the 1990’s. We see some tragic and shocking visuals that represent the times and locations very well.
I also highly enjoyed the soundtrack of All Eyez on Me, which mostly contains popular songs written and performed by Shakur during his life. Not only is the music great, but it’s used very appropriately in all the right ways. In some instances, the music is used to set the tone for coming scenes, while in other situations we actually get to see Shakur perform the songs onstage.
Despite the great music, interesting atmosphere, and decent acting, All Eyez on Me was too incompetently directed for me to recommend to anyone. The first half of the film is an utter mess of scenes that go nowhere and messages that relentlessly beat the audience over the head. By the time the film started making more sense, it was unfortunately already too far gone. What seemed like a subject matter too captivating to fail, All Eyez on Me somehow managed to become the biggest misfire of the year thus far.
The Verdict: D+