The life of murdered rapper/lukewarm activist Tupac Shakur is a difficult one to sort out. Documentarian Nick Broomfield tried to investigate the strange world of Shakur in his feature, “Biggie and Tupac,” but was left with very little to work with outside of court records and home video appearances. The new documentary “Tupac Resurrection” attempts to sort out the life of Shakur, but through his own interviews and public appearances.
The feature starts out innocently enough. Recalling Tupac’s early days as the son of a Black Panther and his childhood witnessing the pain of poverty crippling his fellow man, “Resurrection” credibly begins to Sharpie the lines between Tupac’s youth and what eventually fed his future musical missions. Director Lauren Lazin is given access to a wealth of Tupac footage, showcasing his Baltimore School of the Arts teenage years (with classmate Jada Pinkett) to some early footage of Tupac humping rubber dolls as a background dancer for Digital Underground (of “The Humpty Dance” fame). Lazin plays fast and loose with the connective tissue that takes Tupac from city to city, and experience to experience, but it’s forgivable since the meat of the matter comes when Tupac arrives in California to begin his journey to the top of the charts.
It’s in this segment of the film where Lazin begins to explore more familiar incidents: Tupac’s various arrests, violent behavior, and ability to cover his questionable actions by laying down thoughtful hip-hop tracks of hope. Because “Resurrection” is told through Tupac only, the audience actually does get the chance to see a side of the rapper that few wanted to see: an incredibly bright, well spoken young man who knew more about his actions than he ever let on. The picture also paints Tupac as a man who took very little responsibility for his choices. His shady dealings with Death Row Records owner Suge Knightr It was to get back at those that shunned him in prison. A history of mistreating women, which led to a 1995 jail stintr He loves women, and they knew what they were doing dealing with him (seen in one shockingly unexplained clip of Tupac seducing a groupie). His constant and well documented harassment of other African-American artistsr He’s just got a lovable big mouth sometimes, that‘s all. Tupac’s bigger ideas, like his “Thug Life” mission of urban responsibility, are investigated in great detail, but Shakur’s own inability to take control or properly explain his actions limits “Resurrection” from being the celebration it rather repulsively is created to be.
“Tupac Resurrection” was never meant to give a rounded, full explanation of Shakur’s volatile existence. Tupac Shakur was a complicated man, a best selling rap artist, and a beacon to which millions looking for hope in their bleak existence turned to. Those people deserve better than endless shots of heavenly clouds, grotesquely manipulated sound bites (this alone is almost too fraudulent for words), and softball answers to serious questions on how this man lived his life.Rating: D