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The complete Shakur in his own words and music
In the end, Tupac has the last word.
Rapper and "thug life" revolutionary, artist and articulate spokesman for his art, hard-hearted criminal and mama's boy, the many sides of Tupac Shakur have fascinated documentary filmmakers since his 1996 murder.
But Tupac: Resurrection, directed by Lauren Lazin and produced by Shakur's mother, is the rapper, speaking of his hard life and music, his mistakes and triumphs, and even his impending death, in his own words.
That family cooperation means that this Tupac doc is full of his music, his videos, his home movies and family photos. Every audio or video interview he ever did was available.
And even though the result is something of a valentine to a guy who was, in essence, a brilliant poser whose death seemed triggered by his believing his own tough-guy hype, the many blunders and missteps he made are thoroughly documented. Lazin doesn't sugar-coat Shakur's run-ins with the law, both as a victim and guilty-as-sin punk who brought grief on himself and others.
Unlike the other Tupac docs, such as Nick Broomfield's notorious Biggie and Tupac, this one doesn't concern itself much with who killed him or why he died. Lazin's film celebrates the life and lets him tell his own story. This is how Tupac saw himself -- mercurial, arrogant, ambitious, with talent to burn and "a really big mouth."
His close relationship with his Black Panther mother is shown. He talks about his influences, which will shock most -- Don McLean's folk ode to Van Gogh, "Vincent," was a favorite song.
He charms. He flirts. He seduces. And he's wicked quick with quip. He shows off the marks from a police beating to a TV interviewer.
Of course, the quintessential "hard" man wouldn't be too pleased to show that picture of him in ballet tights. But as paranoid and violent as he seemed, he started life on a star search, writing poetry, break dancing and rapping until he got his break.
And he wasn't done, yet. A genuinely charismatic movie star, Shakur was just emerging in Hollywood when his police troubles and then his murder stopped a promising new career.
Lazin's film presents Tupac Shakur as a Lenny Bruce figure, persecuted, attacked by the system and probably murdered by it. Journalists have pointed the triggerman's finger at cops, and Biggie and Tupac filmmaker Broomfield lays the blame for the murder on Death Row Records honcho Suge Knight. The police don't seem to care.
Some of the sound in the film feels edited, as if Lazin flipped around the wording to make Shakur seem more prophet than pop star. But it's hard not to see a singer who rapped "Who will mourn me," and "looking at my life through a rearview mirror . . . time to die" as prescient.
And she utterly glosses over some of his criminal activity -- the time he shot a couple of cops is barely mentioned.
But this is it, the complete "thug life," everything you wanted to know about the man, his history, his music. Knowing that its brilliant subject died at just 25 makes Tupac: Resurrection as poignant as it is informative.
Roger Moore can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5369.