In the making for the past seven years, All Eyez on Me finally hit theaters this year in June. After the success of Straight Outta Compton two years earlier, the audience seemed ripe for another rap biopic, this time about the late Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp, Jr.). Built up into a martyr, the film chronicles his life both personally and professionally until his untimely death at the age of 25 years old. Seemingly complex, this artist had a tumultuous life that will live on in legend for decades to come.
Tupac was born in 1971 to Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira; The Walking Dead) and Billy Garland, members of the Black Panthers who fought for black freedom in an oppressive America. His mother made sure her children were educated in both the political battles of the time as well as Shakespearian plays. Tupac grew up in New York City, Baltimore and Marin City, CA where he discovered a passion for the arts, including acting and music. Unfortunately, he also seemed to have a chip on his shoulder and could never shake the rebel persona he had been indoctrinated with as a young boy.
His professional career took off in 1990 when he worked with Digital Underground. Then, in 1991, his solo album, 2Pacalypse Now, debuted to critical acclaim. While making what some consider to be some of the greatest rap music he also gained accolades acting in movies such as Above the Rim. However, his talent often seemed to be overshadowed by his antics that included impulsive brawls and shootings to accusations of rape, the latter ending him in jail for 18 months. Ultimately, living his inflated ego was his demise when he was shot and killed in Las Vegas on the evening of September 7, 1996.
Shipp, Jr. has an uncanny resemblance to Tupac but not the same level of passion as the late rapper. While one wants to connect with the character, the portrayal makes it difficult and you never really feel any sympathy for him. In the end, while you don't necessarily feel as though he deserved to die, you simply wonder, "well what did he expect?" as you witness his impulsive, violent outbreaks, his partying lifestyle and the group of people with which he chose to associate. The rest of the cast is unremarkable as well so you never "root" for any of them.
The 1080p video quality of the Blu-ray is strong but with so many exterior or nightclub evening sequences, the video sometimes seems unlit and especially dark. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is exceptionally clear as it highlights the soundtrack featuring Tupac's hits. Unfortunately, the mix is off so the songs are much louder the dialogue and the volume needs to constantly be adjusted.
The extras include a 26-minute look at the making of the movie including interviews with the cast and crew, Becoming Tupac that looks at Shipp's journey to becoming the Rapper, Shipp's audition tape, and deleted scenes. None are awful but I didn't enjoy them all that much either.
Where Straight Outta Compton engaged the audience in the stories and lives of the young rappers, who became some of the most successful artists of the 1990's, All Eyez on Me seems to fail to connect. It's hard to sympathize or even get involved with what is happening and the movie seems to gloss over the more major events in his life.
The film is long, drawn out and at times a little confusing. Fans of the late rapper will enjoy it while remembering him with fondness but the rest of us will see it as an okay movie about a legend.