By Owen Gleiberman
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:50 AM EDT

Biggie & Tupac

B+
type
  • Movie
genre

Tall, strenuously British and polite, yet born without a gene for shame, Nick Broomfield, strutting around in headphones that he never, ever takes off, has become the one-man band of investigative docu-journalism. In ”Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam,” ”Kurt & Courtney,” and the incendiary new Biggie & Tupac, Broomfield, whipping from one freako vérité interview to the next, makes himself easy to laugh at, mostly because it’s obvious how much he relishes being on camera. Yet Broomfield the clown prince of tabloid obsession can’t be dismissed. He uses his showmanship and bluster to disarm his subjects, and in ”Biggie & Tupac” he uncovers a story powerful enough to leave the screen sizzling with intrigue.

According to the film’s conspiracy theory, a variation on the one put forth in Randall Sullivan’s book ”LAbyrinth,” Tupac Shakur and Christopher ”Biggie” Wallace, the rival rap superstars of the ’90s, were both murdered at the behest of Marion ”Suge” Knight, the fearsome entrepreneur of Death Row Records (Knight denies the charges). The film claims that neither case was ever solved due to the involvement of past and present LAPD members in Knight’s organization. On the face of it, ”Biggie & Tupac” is contradicted by a recent Los Angeles Times investigation, which argues that Tupac was murdered by a member of the Crips. Bizarrely, though, the Times story doesn’t undermine Broomfield’s film; it stands in the same relation to it as the Warren Commission report does to the JFK assassination theories.

Broomfield, darting around the rap underworld, makes the case that Knight used the legendary overlapping feuds of the Crips and the Bloods, the East and West Coast rappers, and Tupac and Biggie themselves as a cover for his own sinister mission, which was to prevent Tupac from leaving Death Row. According to the movie, Knight then staged the murder of Biggie to look like a retaliatory execution. Broomfield skimps on evidence that Tupac intended to break with Knight (an odd omission, considering such evidence exists), but he offers chilling circumstantial details of Knight’s possible complicity, and also of the LAPD’s secret involvement in his empire.

In the amazing finale, Broomfield ambles into a California prison yard and uses his power of persuasion to land an interview with Knight himself. Within minutes, the rap mogul, oozing gangsta charisma, has let it be known that he considers former Death Row star Snoop Dogg a snitch, and that snitches deserve to die. Does that prove he killed Tupac and Biggie? Hardly. ”Biggie & Tupac” is, at best, a half-finished puzzle, but Broomfield leaves you with questions that few investigators have even dared to ask.

Episode Recaps

Biggie & Tupac

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
  • R
runtime
  • 108 minutes
director
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