Black activist Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira) is released from prison
just weeks before she gives birth to her first 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 — 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 performance, and with
Tupac's actual recordings used. But this is only a mediocre 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.