Wow, the guy who plays Tupac Shakur in this shiny biopic is awesome. He’s Demetrius Shipp Jr and he’s got the lot, the moves, the abs, the lashes, the flow.
It’s a shame the movie doesn’t quite dig deep enough into the complexities and contradictions of the kid who was raised by a Black Panther supporting Mother (with a crack habit – hell, everyone had one) and who could smash a Shakespeare soliloquy as well as write powerful lyrics about the streets – and be blatantly misogynistic.
The unpleasantness and the politics, the charisma and the sexual ego, the bravado and quest for respect, it’s all played at the same level. The film, directed by Benny Boom needed a bit more shade, but the music’s massive (Digital Underground, Snoop, Biggie, Wu Tang – I was nodding like a dog on the back shelf of an XR 3i).
It’s still a sexy, badass, funky film, better at the beginning than when building up to the nasty business of the East v West rap rivalry that leads to Tupac’s assassination after a Tyson fight in Vegas. You’re reminded a bit of Straight Outta Compton, but that had a bit more wit and texture to it, but I liked that Biggie was played by Jamal Woolard, who played him in Notorious, too.
It doesn’t really look wide enough at the culture, although I liked the ripostes to Senator Dan Quayle who couldn’t spell potato and some of the 90s clothes and artefacts, from DATs to Air Jordans and films like Gridlock’d and Poetic Justice.
The film is convinced Tupac merits iconic deification – I’m not sure it makes the case for the longevity of his cultural importance, but gangsta rap was huge, Tupac was certainly a star, and so is Demetrius who plays him.