Gang Related is the last movie which Tupac Shakur starred in and was released theatrically on October 8, 1997, more than a year after his death. Next to Shakur it stars some fairly recognizable names like James Belushi, Dennis Quaid, James Earl Jones and Davis Paymer, but of course the movie was marketed as the last movie Tupac made before his unfortunate death. Now the question of course then is if Tupacs send-off does him justice or not…
Gang Related stars Tupac and Belushi as a pair of corrupt cops who’ve set up an easy way to get some easy money and to clear the streets of some drug dealers. They sell cocaine from the evidence room to a drug dealer who they then later shoot with a gun from the evidence room in a drive-by. They put the cocaine and the gun back into the evidence room and chances are they get this homicide as a case the next day. A case that they link to a gang related shooting. Belushi’s character is the driving force behind this scam and his motivation is purely early retirement, in Hawaii or some place like that. Tupac is the cop with a conscience who’s questioning their actions and is forced to partake in these activities because he’s got gambling debts. Shit hits the fans as victim #10 turns out to be an undercover DEA-agent and before they could wrap the case up as an unsolved gang related shooting his colleagues are up their and the captains asses requesting that the killer be found. This is where tensions rise as finding a guy who could take the fall seems to be harder than they thought.
Gang Related is a movie that works on several levels; it’s a urban thriller and a black comedy. Most of the time it succeeds on them too. The movies takes a risk by making two bad guys the main characters, two characters that don’t deserve to be rooted for and because of that we don’t. What keeps the movie enjoyable is the plot-line of them trying to frame somebody for the murder. Every suspect that they try to pin it on has a rather solid alibi. At one point they find the perfect victim; a homeless drunk who they convince that he actually killed the cop, and even get a signed confession out of him. Trouble only starts here as this homeless person turns out to be a long lost billionaire who disappeared after a fatal car crash took the lives of his wife and children. What are the odds right?
With each step they take they dig themselves a deeper grave and even loyalty becomes an issue over the course of events.
The movie is well acted and a good send-off for Tupac. It’s not his best movie but his acting here shows even more promise for a future that would never come. Tupac had the talent to become a really big movie star and showcases this talent once more here. Most of the time he shares the screen with James Belushi who’s the biggest villain of the movie and actually has more screen time than Tupac. He is his usual gruff self and is believable as a crooked cop, so believable it’s a wonder somebody actually hired him as a cop. Bad judgment of character he must have! The rest of the cast consists of familiar faces (and voices!) with James Earl Jones and David Paymer playing the roles of lawyers for the bum/billionaire Joe played by an at first unrecognizable Dennis Quaid in a strong performance.
Even though it’s an enjoyable movie with a somewhat original twist in making the bad guys the center of the movie I realized that I didn’t care for these characters as they deserve what’s coming for them. The thing that keeps you watching is because you want to find out if they get away with it and at some points you even try to think with them to find a way out of this mess.