All Eyez On Me review: Tupac Shakur biopic is abysmal
ALL EYEZ ON ME (MA15+)
Director: Benny Boom (Next Day Air)
Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Dominic L. Santana, Kat Graham, Danai Gurira, Jamal Woolard.
Rating: One star
Verdict: Look anywhere but here
AFTER the triumph of the excellent 2015 hip-hop biopic Straight Outta Compton, a dramatic take on the short life and incredible times lived by the late, great Tupac Shakur seemed like a no-brainer to get made.
Unfortunately, this soulless, selectively truthful scraping of the story of the pioneering rap genius - shot dead in an unsolved drive-by at age 25 in 1996 - is an actual no-brainer of a movie.
Even hard line fans prepared to concede that 'Pac is too complex and contradictory a figure to ever be truly captured on-screen will be shocked by how far this poorly scripted, dreadfully directed affair misses the mark of the man.
The best that can be said of Demetrius Shipp Jr. - the acting debutant who plays Shakur - is that he looks the part most of the time. However, he never feels remotely right when it comes to expressing the mercurial (and oft misunderstood) essence of Tupac.
Shipp Jr. isn't the most miscast player here though. That honour goes to the less-than-intimidating dude they found to play Shakur's devious nemesis-mentor Suge Knight. Actor Dominic L. Santana is fat and can frown on command, and that's about it.
So where do we start with All Eyez On Me, a movie that never begins to get anything right about its subject?
The first sign that trouble is afoot is how the screenplay comprehensively bungles two of the most fascinating aspects of the Tupac story: the rapid evolution of his forcefully evocative talent as a lyricist, and the aggressively irresistible manner in which he would rap those words out loud.
The best explanation All Eyez On Me can come up with is that 'Pac dabbled in a bit of Shakespeare at high school, and was a quick learner on the job while briefly paying his dues as a minor member of Digital Underground.
In the blink of an eye, Shakur is suddenly a prolific hit-making machine, a movie star and fully-fledged gangsta icon.
The Tupac-For-Dummies approach used here is harmless enough when it is merely skimming Wikipedia for any accessible facts that can be bullet-pointed on-screen.
Much time is spent reminding us that 'Pac was a strictly platonic BFF of former schoolmate and future movie star Jada Pinkett.
We also get the distinct impression Shakur was a bit unlucky with money management, a bit naive when it came to accepting the advances of cool crooks and hot babes alike, and, umm, a bit of dunce not to have thought twice before becoming frenemies with Biggie Smalls.
However, when All Eyez On Me moves into deeper, darker waters concerning Shakur, its unrelenting ineptitude begins to do some real damage to his legacy.
While the movie harps on about the moral backbone instilled in him by his blacktivist mother, you'll lose count of the number of times Shakur does nothing to stand up for his oppressed brethren while they're being beaten up (and worse) right in front of him.
As for All Eyez On Me's handling of the 1993 sexual assault case that put him in jail, the movie's cynical slut-shaming of the woman involved is unforgivable.
This sloppy, spirit-sapping marathon gets increasingly abysmal as it goes along, giving Naomi Watts' Diana a serious rival for worst biopic of a pop-cultural megastar in living memory.