Tupac’s last film appearance was in the 1997 crime drama Gang Related. In a cosmically bittersweet way, it was the perfect swan song to his reputable but short film career. His character, crooked vice detective Jake Rodriguez, embodied the full range of humanity that Pac displayed as one of the most formidable, fearless voices in the history of music.
Gang Related is a two-hander that centers on Rodriguez and his morally bankrupt partner Frank Divinci (Jim Belushi). These cops operate above the law, engaging in murder, drug trafficking and extortion for their own financial motivations. Their corrupt world quickly comes crumbling down when a mark they murder turns out to be a deep-cover DEA agent. Belushi remains singularly ruthless as he tries to cover his ass, while Pac—who certainly has blood on his hands—begins to succumb to feelings of guilt and remorse.
In his subtle performance, we bear witness to the gamut of emotions and contradictions that made Pac such a complex and fascinating artist and human being. There’s a tenderness and vulnerability, a paranoia and volatility, and a comedic, carefree magic to Rodriguez, a man caught in a quicksand of his own design. —Erik Abriss