The story of legendary rapper and political activist, Tupac Shakur, is brought to life in this exceptional film that will capture audiences, regardless of their musical preferences.
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Pregnant with Tupac, Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), a Black Panther, is released from prison. Her strength and willingness to use her voice to fight racial injustice will be a formative influence on the young Tupac (Demetrius Shipp Jr), as will his stepfather, activist Mutulu Shakur (Jamie Hector).
When the latter is arrested for bank robbery, Tupac is relocated from New York to Baltimore, where his time at an arts school fosters his love of poetry and theatre, and also sees him form an important relationship with Jada Pinkett (who later becomes Jada Pinkett-Smith).
But, with trouble on the home front, Shakur is once again uprooted. This time to Compton, in California—where unlike his previous homes, drugs, gangs and extreme violence begin to colour his world. It makes him angry and vulnerable to a group of disenfranchised young men, who use hip hop to express their sense of social injustice; particularly with the police.
Here, we see the young rapper emerge; and we also see his resentment for authority deepen. As his popularity and power in the music scene grows, he begins to attract the wrong kind of attention, from both law enforcement and rival gangs.
What follows is a charged mix of ego, violence and justified anger, which ultimately sees him shot, jailed and cemented as a key icon on one side of the West Coast vs. East Coast gang wars, which defined the early nineties hip hop scene.
All Eyez on Me is a powerful film that shows the complicated existence of a young man troubled by injustice, yet intoxicated by fame and fortune. Tupac is neither angel nor villain, but a tragic waste of musical and intellectual talent, who was lost to a gang war that seemed to have no real purpose.
Nearly two decades after his unsolved death, we can reflect on the impact he had—but more importantly, the legacy he could have left, had he survived long enough to amplify his voice in a more political arena.
There is so much to race relations and oppression in America that remains as tragic today as it was 20 years ago. By exploring Tupac as an intellectual figure—not merely a hip hop artist—his contribution to raising awareness and highlighting disadvantage can properly be heard.
The greatest tragedy here, beyond his early death, is the voice that was lost. Had he found a way to unite rather than divide, he could have made an even more powerful impact than he did. Hopefully, this film will serve to give volume to his voice once more.
Director: Benny Boom
Stars: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham
Runtime: 2 hours 20 mins
Release Date: June 16
Reviewer Rating: 4/5
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