All Eyez On Me Movie Review – There’s Not A Place Called Careful

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

Read my All Eyez On Me movie review.

This is less of a review of the movie than it is a dissection of the movie, but I will give a short review and it’s close to what everyone has already said about it.

Directed by Benny Boom, All Eyez On Me feels less like a theatrical film and more like a TV miniseries. Think The New Edition Story or The Jacksons: An American Dream in that, it’s a re-creation of things that we all know and remember. In fact, it reminded me of the New Edition movie because music video scenes were re-created with the fake Tupac Shakur, played by Demetrius Shipp Jr., imitating real Tupac Shakur in his famous videos.

Calling him fake Pac isn’t to dismiss Shipp Jr. He did a great imitation of Pac. He looked like Pac. Walked like Pac. Talked like Pac. Even smoked cigarettes like Pac. He showed a great dedication in studying him. But it was every bit of an imitation rather than an actor giving his interpretation of Tupac. Danai Gurira’s portrayal of Afeni Shakur was solid. I started to wonder if Lauryn Hill would’ve done a better job or been more memorable, but then remembered that Lauryn would’ve probably come to the set 5 hours late each day.

All Eyez On Me movie reviewThe movie’s setting is cliché. They didn’t take a chunk of Tupac’s life to focus on. They tried to tell his entire life story in two hours and twenty minutes, using Kevin Powell’s Vibe Magazine interviews with Pac as the outline. While the movie starts with Powell and Pac in jail, the actual interview they use most for early part of the movies is the first interview that Powell did with him that was published in February 1994. During that time, Pac was on trial for sexual assault and had recently been ambushed and shot at Quad Studios. Powell would later do an interview with Pac in jail that saw Pac reformed and denouncing Thug Life while giving more details of the shooting. Hill Harper (who I remember most for playing Booger in He Got Game) plays Powell who is credited simply as journalist. At the time, Pac was very paranoid thinking that he wanted the truth out there in case he didn’t make it out of jail.

Immediately, you start feeling that things are moving too fast, nothing sticks, and unless you’re a Tupac fan who knows a lot of the story, you might be sitting there wondering what made him so special. The storytelling is akin to trying to fit 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag. There are so many characters in the movie and very few of them are memorable. It’s not because of the portrayals. They’re just in and out so quickly.

You see Jada Pinkett (now Smith), Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (played by Jarrett Ellis who for whatever reason looks more like Michael Jackson’s Scarecrow from The Wiz than the actual Snoop Dogg) and rather than them being major parts of Tupac’s story, they’re just drive-by characters. They’re in the movie because they’re supposed to be.

Miss Jada wasn’t too happy about her portrayal.

She was upset that the details weren’t exactly the way they happened and she has a right to be upset, but no one would really know the difference. Jada’s characters is one of the few voices of reason in the film.

The movie would’ve been much better if it chose to tell a part of the story, such as if it focused on how he changed pre-fame to post-fame. Or, the who, what, when, why, and where of when he was shot at Quad Studios and how that caused him to be so paranoid for the rest of his existence. They could’ve even focused on him being in over his head with Death Row and trying to figure out how to get out. Those storylines would’ve been much better movies than just a timeline version of everything we know about his life.

Tupac fans should still see this film, even if it’s not all that good. His songs are blaring throughout and there are scenes that will make you smile.

Now, time for the dissection.

All Eyez On Me movie reviewWhen Pac died, I read all the articles and books that I could find. He was perceived to be such a complex individual, but looking at it with 2017 eyes, I’m not so sure he was as complex as we made him out to be. Vibe Magazine published a book which was a collection of stories they’d written about him over a three year period. Book stores couldn’t keep it in stock. I read it a few times over the last 21 years, and read it all the way through again after watching the movie.

Like I mentioned above, the outline for the script was taken from a few of the interviews that were also re-published in the book. Powell asked Pac very insightful questions and the Tupac Shakur before jail was a journalist’s dream. He probably said too many things that would eventually become harmful, including his re-telling of when he was shot at Quad Studios during the trial for sexual assault. This is pretty much where the feud with Biggie, Puffy, and Bad Boy began. He made it seem like they had something to do with it. Pac didn’t say they set him up. But he did say he thought something was up going into the studio before getting ambushed.

While I guess it’s plausible that Puffy could’ve had something to do with it (he’s been blamed for Tupac’s murder before), it’s weird for me to believe that. But without Pac being frustrated with Biggie and Puffy, the rest of what he decides to do as portrayed in the movie doesn’t make sense, and really, it didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. But, since the East Coast/West Coast feud was so prominent historically, the movie follows the same narrative.

Some responsibility for the beef also falls on their shoulders in how they responded. Puffy, Biggie, and others like Andre Harrell, Pac’s friend Stretch, Jimmy Henchman and Haitian Jack, called Booker and Nigel in the interview (and who we’ll get to in a bit) wrote letters to Vibe. All were very defensive, and maybe too defensive. Rather than shake it off as Pac being paranoid since he really did get shot and was in jail for sexual assault, they were dismissive of him personally. Had they showed more love for him, maybe the feud would’ve never started. It’s possible that Suge Knight used that information to influence Pac to show him who was with him or against him. Or, maybe it’s all conjecture on my end.

Puffy did write Pac a letter in jail and Pac would later reference it because when he claimed that Thug Life was over, it was Puffy who said that he really wasn’t about that life if he was so soon to dismiss it. Pac said Puffy’s advice made it easy to turn back to Thug Life.

It’s since come out that the setup probably had something to do with Jimmy Henchman, who Pac also names in his song “Against All Odds” on the Makaveli album that came out after he passed away.

In the song, he raps:

And did I mention?
Promised to payback, Jimmy Henchman, in due time

The movie is frustrating because of what it could’ve been. Because it’s a story based on a long timeline rather than focusing on significant moments, it fails to discuss the biggest issue that even Pac’s biggest fans had with him. Pac fans wondered how someone who could write and perform songs like “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Brenda’s Got A Baby”, and “Dear Mama” could also be the same guy to treat women badly in his music, and be involved in a sexual assault case.

My kid described it best. I took him to the movie and he doesn’t know a ton about Pac because he was born after Pac passed. He said that Pac seemed like a dumb, smart guy in that you could tell Pac was brilliant but his actions didn’t necessarily back it up.

In reading back the interviews with Pac, his reasons for wanting to puff up his chest and be hard seemed to be because he was raised by his mother and didn’t have a male influence. While he was in performing arts, all the tough guys were in the street. His desire to live up to his idea of what an alpha male was is what put him in situations that led to his demise. In reading his quotes, you could see that he knew what the right thing to do was. Even in describing what happened with the alleged rape, him leaving the victim alone with his friends (in his version of the story) was all about his insecurities.

He tells Kevin Powell:

But before she could do that, some ****** came in and I froze up more than she froze up. If she would have said anything, I would have said, “Hold on, let me finish.” But I can’t say nothing, because she’s not saying nothing. How do I look saying, “Hold on”? That would be like I’m making her my girl.

He didn’t want to tell his friends, one of them supposedly being Haitian Jack, to leave him and the woman alone because they would tease him about it. Instead, he left the room as his friends were trying to get in on the action.

(By the way, even though this is how Pac depicts it happened in the interview, in the movie it’s a bit different. She gives Pac a massage, but because he has a show to do later that night, he wants to take a nap and asks her to leave the room. Later, she wakes him up screaming, blaming Pac for allowing his friends to do this to her.

The victim would later write a letter to Vibe explaining that Pac held her down while he and his friends assaulted her.)

The Death Row portion of his career was Pac at his most maniacal. Prior to being shot, Pac was portrayed as young and crazy, but still very introspective. Like I mentioned, when he was in jail, he was ready to denounce his prior life. Then again, I’m sure that happens often in jail. But once Suge Knight bailed him out and signed him to Death Row, Pac amplified his character. Biggie once said that when Pac got out of jail, he turned into the Bishop character from Juice, which was Pac’s first movie role.

Pac was in deep to Suge and had to pay off everything that Suge did for him. It’s possible that he didn’t want to be in business with Suge anymore like the movie portrays and like has come out since he passed. But he was also about loyalty. Pac mentions loyalty and family a lot once he’s with Death Row, which seemed to be Suge’s hook in him. Pac didn’t trust people, especially after he was set-up, but he could trust Suge. Suge bailed him out and bought his mother a home.

What I didn’t know a lot about that the movie explained fairly well was Pac’s relationship with Kidada Jones. Jones was with Pac in Las Vegas when he was murdered. I don’t know how much of this is just the movie versus how much of it really happened, but he felt conflicted in leaving that night because he wanted to spend time with her, but Suge wanted him to go to the club. Jones has later said that she had a feeling something bad was going to happen after he got into a fight right before.

The movie gives the normal play by play of how you’ve heard that Pac died. They show the ambushing of Orlando Anderson in the casino. And then the retaliation which left Pac dead. But then the movie ends with the idea that Pac’s murder is an unsolved mystery, which Jesse Washington thinks is pretty bunk.

Not since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy have conspiracy theories run so amok. But the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Of course a Crip came gunning for a crew of Bloods who dealt him a humiliating butt-whipping. Tupac beat up a killer, who then killed him. All over a piece of jewelry.

Tupac chose to live, and die, by the rules of Thug Life. Our inability to face that fact is a symptom of our inability to help our most troubled young black men.

Tupac is such a fascinating character and deserved a better movie. Better things may come. There’s going to be a six-part series based on who killed Pac out later this year as well as a documentary coming from Steve McQueen.

At the end of the first interview that Powell did with Pac, he asked him, “What about being more careful?”

This was in response to Pac going into a soliloquy about becoming another statistic if he had to go to jail.

Pac responded, “Where do I go to stay out of trouble? That’s why I came to Atlanta. What do they want me to do? There’s not a place called ‘Careful’.”

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