Critical Condition: Unsolved: Tupac & Biggie

Unsolved: Tupac & Biggie | Netflix, from Monday

➢ “In the more than 20 years since two of the most influential hip-hop artists in history were gunned down, there have been documentaries, books, biopics, and extensive articles about Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, and the East Coast–West Coast rivalry that escalated around their deaths. A limited series airing couldn’t possibly add much to a discussion that’s been rehashed repeatedly for two decades. Then again, that’s exactly what a lot of people said before they watched American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. While Unsolved isn’t quite as slick and incisive as that FX series, it is an absorbing, provocative, and extraordinarily well-acted work of television that takes a narrative approach just novel enough to make you feel like you’re seeing these long-cold cases through fresh eyes.” — New York.

➢ “Unsolved is equal parts appealingly pulpy and workmanlike, sometimes paced like a procedural and sometimes like a prestige drama. It weaves together three story lines — the friendship between Tupac (Marcc Rose) and Biggie (Wavyy Jonez), which soured and ultimately collapsed; the original L.A.P.D. investigation into Biggie’s murder, steered maniacally by the detective Russell Poole (Jimmi Simpson); and the task force convened a decade after the killings, helmed by [Greg] Kading (Josh Duhamel). …  As the episodes toggle between the ostentation of the hip-hop world and the grayness of police headquarters, it’s hard to overlook that a story of this historical significance is rendered in such proletarian fashion.” — New York Times.

➢ “Unsolved is best described as the serialised depiction of one of those corkboards covered in yarn, photos and clues scribbled on index cards that you often see in conspiracy-driven TV shows and films. There’s a lot going on in this narrative — much of it densely complex, and the action spans more than two decades — but its verve, sense of place and a few truly excellent performances were enough to buoy me through the slower and knottier patches … In the end, despite the ungainly amount of information it tries to parse, Unsolved has the propulsive energy and stylish pop of a pretty good nighttime soap. But it’s one that, to its credit, never loses sight of the untimely deaths that brought this whole complicated story to life.” — Variety.

➢ “Executive producer Anthony Hemingway is a fine journeyman TV director who worked on The Wire and Treme before winning an Emmy for his brilliant work on American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson. Hemingway directed much of Unsolved, and you can recognisee how the strategy here aims simultaneously for David Simon-ish maximalist realism (lots of cops investigating lots of suspects) and Ryan Murphy-ish celebrity unrealism (the cops are careful to mention that Tupac was dating Quincy Jones’ daughter) … The absence of justice crackles with real-world energy, but the show lacks a dramatic centre, cycling through musical-biopic hagiography and procedural-miniseries dullness.” — Entertainment Weekly.

➢ “Sprawling and messy, Unsolved is ambitious and boasts a deep ensemble featuring a wide assortment of TV’s finest character actors. It’s also full of lead-eared dialogue and repetitive plotting and, for a series with music at its centre, has a near-crippling lack of music from its two title figures. So as often as Unsolved is compelling and entertaining, it’s also infuriating.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

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