All Eyez on Me: An Ordinary Film About an Extraordinary Life

Written by Tommy Tracy

Demetrius Shipp Jr as Tupac Shakur in All Eyez on Me
Photo Credit: Quantrell Colbert

It’s official: Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur did not get the biopics they deserved.

Way back in 2009 (whoa), I was beyond excited to see Notorious, the film based around the life of Biggie Smalls. While I did not hate it, I was left disappointed — a film based on one of this world’s most prolific rappers should have been incredible, not paint by numbers. Eight years later, I left the theater after seeing All Eyez on Me, solemn and sad. Tupac Shakur, arguably the greatest rapper of all time, should have been given the opportunity to shine on the big screen.

Sadly, it’s just…fine.

As a fan of the artist, I made sure to do research on Shakur when I was growing up. And you know what? The film is pretty accurate, sans some additions to be added for dramatic effect. From Pac’s younger days to his first run-in with the authorities, to his signing with Death Row, his friendship/rivalry with Biggie and ultimately his death — All Eyez on Me definitely paints a picture of the man.

The problem is it feels pulled from a Wikipedia page. Anyone with enough sense to Google the man can find all this information. There are obligatory scenes put there just to shovel exposition at the audience. It feels like someone else is telling Pac’s story instead of believing that is him on screen.

On a positive note, Demetrius Shipp, Jr. is a revelation. This relatively unknown actor bears an insane resemblance to the late artist, and developed the man’s attitude to a tee. When the film actually allows Shipp to hit the stage and throw out verses, it’s a sight to behold. Sadly, the movie would rather focus on the boring aspects of his life. Not to compare it to the far superior Straight Outta Compton, but what that film did so well was mixing the important drama of the artists lives with their journey to write the music that defined them. This briefly, if at all, touches on WHY Pac wrote his hits such as “Changes” and “All Eyez on Me”.

All Eyez on Me is not a bad film but it just leaves a lot to be desired. If you know the man’s story, you won’t discover anything new or fun here, except for Shipp’s fantastic portrayal. Seriously, I can’t get over how amazing he was. If you’re new to the story of Shakur, you may end up confused as to why he was changed by his environment and his relationship with his mother. Either way, it’s quite the bore, briefly shining when the music becomes the focal point. Maybe I was spoiled by N.W.A.’s foray into film but I was really hoping this film would be as good, if not better. Again, it’s not a bad film. It’s just completely fine and basic. Tupac was a lyrical genius and his life was far more exciting than we see here.

All Eyez on Me Rating: 5/10