Mill Creek Entertainment // 2007 // 180 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // March 26th, 2009
An unprecedented level of access to the life & death of Tupac Shakur.
Given that most of the people interviewed for this pair of documentaries are barely peripheral to Tupac Shakur's life, this documentary could hardly be called unprecedented. Like most of the other unauthorized Tupac DVDs (Thug Immortal, Before I Wake, Thug Angel), Tupac: Assassination relies on the recollections of Shakur's former bodyguard Frank Alexander. Alexander has been peddling his memories and thoughts of Shakur for years (at one distasteful point on this disc, he hawks his many other Shakur-related books and DVDs). His theories on how Shakur was probably murdered by Suge Knight, the head of Shakur's label Death Row Records, have been aired many, many times. Plus, since this is an unauthorized release, you won't hear a note of Shakur's music or see more than a few seconds of footage of the man himself. Even with three hours and two discs there's very little new content here.
The bulk of Disc One, subtitled "Conspiracy or Revenge," is taken up with attempts to explain how Shakur's murder fits all the hallmarks of a political assassination. This is something of a stretch, to say the least. The theories of political assassinations explained here seem arbitrary and there's an awful lot of speculation presented to make Shakur's death fit the category. For instance, "Conspiracy or Revenge" argues that one of the trademarks of a political assassination is that a "patsy," or phony perpetrator, is chosen and sacrificed. The documentary then argues that Orlando Anderson, the L.A. gang member who both Las Vegas and Los Angeles police have identified as Shakur's likely killer, was the patsy selected and that his 1998 murder allowed the real killers to go scot-free. However, Anderson is only a patsy if you accept the premise of the documentary that he is one, an allegation it can't and doesn't prove. In other words, Shakur's death was an assassination because Anderson was a patsy, but the only possible proof that Anderson was a patsy is that Shakur's murder was an assassination. In logic terms, that's called a tautology: X = Y because Y = X. Anyone who is already convinced will eagerly agree, but if you're actually looking to be convinced, the gaps in logic present here will make you less likely to concur.
Gaping logic holes are not the only problem here. Because this DVD is completely unauthorized, none of Shakur's major friends or collaborators were interviewed. Not producer Dr. Dre, nor rappers Snoop Dogg or Shock-G of Digital Underground. The only people interviewed who actually knew Shakur are bodyguards, including Alexander and another bodyguard named Michael Moore. Moore is considered the big "get" of the DVD, as he's never been interviewed before, and he alleges that his boss ordered him to leave Shakur unprotected and vulnerable in Las Vegas the night he was killed. Again, he offers no proof of his allegations, which is particularly troublesome. The whole documentary pretty much hinges on what Moore claims to have heard (including some fuzzy and unclear words on a cell phone), so for "Conspiracy or Revenge" to make no efforts to establish his reliability (there's not even a single photo of Moore with Shakur) completely undermines its credibility. Similarly, there are plenty of interviews with cops and prosecutors, but almost none of them were actually involved with the case; most are from completely different jurisdictions offering their opinions. Only Brent Becker from the LVPD has any actual knowledge of the case, and he doesn't say much. The narrator claims that it's time for people to stop believing the myths and lies about Shakur's murder, so why shouldn't viewers be just as skeptical of what this DVD presents, especially since most of it is conjecture?
Disc Two, subtitled "Reckoning," is even less useful. Ostensibly a look at Shakur's life and career, it's really a hodgepodge of outtakes from Disc One coupled with some random footage with no plot or point. Here, at least, there are a few people who did know Shakur a little better, including his manager Leila Steinberg, business associate Tracy Robinson, and Shakur's aunt Gloria Cox. However, their reminiscences are so poorly assembled and edited that it's hard to follow exactly what they're trying to say. There is also an extended section about Real Love, which is apparently some sort of film project that Shakur was working on before his death, but because the documentary haphazardly cobbles together some script notes and footage it's impossible to decipher exactly what the film was supposed to be. That kind of sloppiness is indicative of how unwatachable "Reckoning" is. There's so little here of value that even the most devout Shakur fan will feel cheated. There are also six minutes of bonus interviews, none of which add anything. At least the non-anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix are both satisfactory.
Ultimately, Tupac: Assassination isn't worth much. Even by the standards of unauthorized DVDs full of pointless conjecture and secondhand memories, it's a waste of time, especially padded out to three hours. As flawed as Nick Broomfield's Biggie Vs. Tupac was, at least it actually seemed to talk to the right people and verify some of its claims. Until someone who truly cares about this story can make a genuinely careful documentary, Biggie Vs. Tupac will have to stand as the only documentary of note on this subject. Tupac: Assassination isn't even close to acceptable.
Guilty of adding nothing of value to the subject.
Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Wikipedia: Tupac Shakur