Growing up on the mean streets of the Bronx, cultivating an interest in theater and the arts in Baltimore, writing poetry and obsessively watching "Diff'rent Strokes" molded the young Shakur, the son of two Black Panther activists. The rap superstar came into his own after leaving Digital Underground in the early 1990s, releasing the album "2Pacalypse Now."
Steering away from a rose-tinted treatment of Shakur, Lazin presents the controversial rapper--who drew the ire of Dan Quayle, women's groups and others who accused him of promoting violence and misogyny--with warts intact. But the documentary also illuminates the charismatic style of this fiery streetwise poet with a penchant for trouble.Lazin mostly delivers the goods on Shakur's run-ins with police--the ominous shooting in 1994, the fight with Allen Hughes during the filming of "Menace II Society" and the sexual assault trial--and with the East Coast rappers (Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy). As perhaps a counterbalance to Nick Broomfield's conspiratorial "Biggie and Tupac," Lazin stays away from unanswered questions about who shot Shakur and why. That section of the film needed beefing up.
Shakur's music is presented front and center, revealing the rapper's considerable artistry as perhaps the 1990s' quintessential street poet. Starring Tupac Shakur. Directed by Lauren Lazin. Produced by Preston Holmes, Karolyn Ali and Lauren Lazin. A Paramount release. Documentary. Rated R for strong language and images of drugs, violence and sex. Running time: 112 min