Resurrection is neither. The producer is not some slick Hollywood mogul with no understanding of rap except as a source for making a quick buck. Instead, Afeni Shakur, the late rapper's mother, takes charge. As both executive producer and the dominant force in her son's short life, her personal agenda impacts every frame. Like all documentaries, this is an extremely one-sided account, and it is likely due to her input that the movie downplays the darker aspects of Pac's self-destructive downward spiral after his move to Death Row Records. Nor is the film harsh enough on Tupac's seemingly endless capacity for paranoia and irresponsibility.
Fortunately, she also makes the crucial decision not to dwell on more tired hash-rehash of so called East Coast/West Coast rap war, which the movie clarifies as less of a reality than a media event. Nor does it choose to linger on the numerous rumors and conspiracies surrounding Tupac's murder.
Shakur and director Lauren Lazin wisely decide to let Tupac's voice carry the film. Lazin wisely refrains from using the masterful, propagandistic gimmicks of a Michael Moore documentary. There are no distracting interviews or massively-edited montages. As a result, the movie has a lyrical, sacred tone. History has mystified Pac as a martyr for West Coast gangsta rap, although during his lifetime he only released one such album. Few choose to remember that Death Row was the twilight of his life, that he spent the first half-decade of his career recording in the East where he grew up. It is here that the film takes its cue.
Resurrection lays bare a magnetic, arrogant, charismatic spirit that immediately affirms why Pac remains one of rap's only true megastars. Though the film is not hard enough on how his growing obstinacy may have hastened his demise, it does not shy away from the controversy, the premonitions of death, the sex abuse conviction, and the inflated ego. The result is a well-drawn sketch of man aware of his genius but haunted by demons, a tortured soul navigating a realm more thuggish than he was at his core, a contradiction which plays as a general commentary on rap's manufactured images.
This movie's production value alone easily outclasses nearly every other cinematic work that has ever pretended to be about hip-hop. It bears little resemblance to How High or Belly or to the shameless self-promotion of the vanity project 8 Mile, which was so sanitized as to kill any revelations it might have made about its star Eminem, the most high profile rapper to yet arise. I don't understand how someone could praise 8 Mile for its beauty and honesty (it isn't) and then criticize this film.
By contrast, the sincerity of Resurrection solidifies Pac's reputation as `the only rapper that matters.' It shows why he is peerless and maybe the greatest artist the genre has yet produced: whatever can be said about his music, as an intelligent personality there is simply no one else in his class. He is so much more painfully relevant than all star rappers, and the sharpness of his observations on everything from politics to poverty leaves dust in the eyes of all his contemporaries. He represents a paradigm that has become all-too-rare in a musical form now dominated by cartoon images: a constructive rather than destructive point-of-view.
A ball of contradictions, Tupac is finally much more complex and brilliant than most people would expect. People are uninformed and uninterested in hip-hop probably will get little out of this movie. Those who know will realize that the biggest tragedy is that not that Tupac died before reaching his full potential, but that other young black men with similar sensibilities rarely reach his level of visibility. 9.5/10.