All Eyez On Me tells the compelling story of one of rap’s most revolutionary artists, Tupac Shakur. Directed by Benny Boom and written by Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian, the film highlights the hardcore life of the prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist. This gritty narration of the rapper’s rise and fall includes character appearances from ’90s hip hop legends Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, Notorious B.I.G. and more.
Newcomer Demetrius Shipp, Jr. portrays Shakur in such a heartfelt way that despite his downfalls, it makes you feel for him. Shakur was arrested numerous times between during his famed years. Some of the arrests were valid while others weren’t, such as when he was false accused of rape that cost him sponsorships and a tour. However, his life was reclaimed when All Eyez On Me was released as rap’s first double album and skyrocketed to the top of the charts. However, the actor had a very soft spot for his family, often giving them money he didn’t have.
Shipp Jr.’s resemblance of the late rapper often makes people stop and stare. I was impressed at his doppleganger status that it made me question whether Shakur really died 22 years ago or if he was just in hiding all these years. The production team did a lot of research on Shakur’s tattoos and markings for an even more realistic portrayal for each era represented in the film.
Besides his resemblance, Shipp Jr. has a close connection to the later rapper. His dad, Demetrius Shipp, produced Shakur’s song “Toss It Up” that appeared on the album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. Shipp said once he signed on to the film in 2011, he began living, eating and breathing Tupac, “If I was about to eat, I would turn on Tupac. When I was going to sleep, I would turn on Tupac and watch that until I fell asleep. Throughout the night, it would just be playing so that if I woke up in the morning, the first thing I would do was watch Tupac.”
“Throughout the night, it would just be playing so that if I woke up in the morning, the first thing I would do was watch Tupac.”
The film, named after the rapper’s fourth and final album while alive, opens with a reporter visiting Shakur in prison to discuss his life. He talks about his mother Afeni’s (played by The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira) imprisonment pre-birth as an active member of the Black Panther Party, her drug-induced lifestyle, his family’s move from New York City to Baltimore, and his final destination of Hollywood to become a rapper.
Many fans (and critics) have complained about the film, perhaps due to some of the inaccuracies, perhaps involving scenes with Shakur and Jada Pinkett Smith (played by The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham). However, it’s not due to the actors themselves. I feel each one played their characters with authenticity and purpose. While I’m not a rap fan, I am a music documentary and film fan, and this film does take you back to the ’90s when hip hop was on the rise and Shakur dominated pop culture. Tupac’s story needed to be told and this tells it well.
As expected for a newer film, the Blu-ray presentation is superb. The video is crisp and the audio fills the room properly with a surround sound system. The disc is packed with bonus features such as deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurettes and Shipp Jr.’s audition tape. I bet you didn’t know that Shipp Jr. waited until thirty minutes before the audition deadline ended before submitting his tape. Can’t say this would be the same film had he not signed on as the title role.
All Eyez On Me is available on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on September 5th via Lionsgate. Its digital counterpart was released on August 22nd. The film runs 140 minutes and is rated R for language, drug use, violence, nudity and sexuality.
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.