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Review: All Eyez on Me

In cinemas: 15 June 2017
Starring: Demetrius Shipp JrDanai GuriraJamal Woolard
Director: Benny Boom

Tupac Shakur – or 2Pac – was one of the prime exponents of hip hop during the 1990s, enjoying phenomenal success and multi-platinum album sales before his death in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996, aged 25.

Taking its title from Tupac's fourth studio album, this sprawling biopic from director Benny Boom charts the rapper and sometime actor's rise from his turbulent youth and formative years performing with Digital Underground, to a controversial solo career full of incendiary lyrics, accusations of misogyny, and multiple arrests. With his bling growing in proportion to his success, Tupac emerges as a young man driven by a resolute desire to change the world, imbued at an early age by a stepfather with revolutionary ideals.

It's a life story related to a journalist while Tupac is doing time in '95, but this superfluous framing device is dispensed with following his release and subsequent signing with the portentously named Death Row Records – an association that would propel him to superstardom and music immortality.

Committed newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. attempts to give us Tupac and not a performance, but it's more his physical resemblance that sells it. The standout here is Danai Gurira as his volatile, activist mother, channelling Viola Davis, Alfre Woodard, and her Walking Dead character Miccone into a fiery combination.

At two hours and twenty minutes, All Eyez on Me is certainly thorough in presenting the facts surrounding this hip hop icon, but it never truly gets under the skin of its subject. When Tupac is sentenced to 18 months for sexual misconduct, he berates the judge for not once looking him in the eye and seeing the person, the man, behind the lyrics and gangsta lifestyle. It's an accusation that can also be levelled at this film.

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