All Eyez On Me feels like a collection of segments intercut with montages. It's a collage of a man's life. There is no heart or soul to be found within this project. There's no passion emanating from behind the camera. Tupac was a generational figure. One of the great American poets, one of the most influential musicians of all time; a true visionary, a pioneer, a revolutionary. He wasn't without his demons. He wasn't perfect, and he knew it. He stated many times that he was just living his life the only way he knew how. He wanted to inspire and invoke change, but he also refused to lie down. He loathed injustice. He spoke his mind because he knew he had to. He felt deep within himself that it was his duty to advocate for those who didn't have his platform.
It's unfortunate that many of Pac and Jada Pinkett's interactions here are reportedly fabricated, or do not tell the whole truth. Kat Graham, who plays Jada Pinkett, crafts a strong woman who cares deeply for a person she feels is on the verge of losing himself, a man who doesn't see that his end game can be achieved through other means. It's never easy to watch someone you love hurt, particularly when that someone has something significant to say, exhibits the noblest of intentions, and yet surrounds themselves with people who don't see or understand their vision. Graham’s performance and her chemistry with Demetrius Shipp Jr. are the bright spots in an otherwise unremarkable film. Graham commands the attention of the viewer every time she is on screen.
Her Jada Pinkett is strong, resilient, loving, and, above all, forthright. She and Shipp Jr. seem as if they've been friends for years. However inacurrate the events depicted might be––the actual Jada Pinkett-Smith has expressed her disappointment at the way her relationship with the deceased artist was portrayed onscreen––one cannot fault the filmmakers for hiring talent capable of conveying the special bond they shared. Even though their screen time together is minimal, we can see and feel the love they share for one another. That's a testament to the chemistry between Demetrius Shipp Jr. (Tupac) and Graham, as mentioned earlier, bring to their roles.
Shipp Jr.’s portrayal of Tupac seems sincere. It is evident the actor has a connection with Tupac. He understands Pac, even if this isn't always front and center. When the camera lingers and provides Shipp Jr. the room to flex his acting muscles, he proves he has the talent to do Tupac justice. In the, far too few moments Tupac and Jada share together, Shipp Jr. presents us with the turmoil Tupac always struggled with as he struggled to redefine both his role as an artist and his contributions to his community. He does while feeding us with Tupac's need for respect. Tupac’s handling of the latter here often gave way to adversity. The prison interviews later in the film indicate how successfully Shipp Jr. brings Tupac to life, granting us an insight into a, by many accounts, intelligent young man whose desire to positively impact the world ran afoul of his demons.
But it's unfortunate that instances like these are few and far between. The film is too concerned with regurgitating Pac’s whole life with the allotted two and a half hours. As a result, a lot of what we witness plays out like an overblown music video, reducing Shipp Jr. to little more than an imitation. Chalk this up to subpar direction and editing. The lens rarely stays long enough for Shipp Jr. to emote, but when it does, he nails it. The film moves far too fast through too many events, consequently cutting itself––and Shipp Jr. ––off at the legs.
Tupac is an icon who touched and inspired many both within and outside the music industry. He deserves a more accurate portrayal of his life. A more intimate and focused one. All Eyez On Me clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes––and barely scratches the surface of Tupac’s life. Pac led a full life that was often wild and tumultuous. The film tries to capture the magic that was Pac, but ultimately poor writing and lackluster direction derail it, and the experience is hollow.