Dir.: Nick Broomfield; Documentary with Suge Knight, Tupac Shakur, Biggie, Pam Brooks, Russell Poole, Faith Evans, Greg Kading, Bernard Parks; USA 2021, 105 min.
Director/writer Nick Broomfield provides the sequel to his own documentary Biggie & Tupac (2002) about the founder and CEO of LA’s Death Row Records Suge Knight. Back in 2018 Knight was sentenced to 28 years in jail for the voluntary manslaughter of fellow music producer Terry Carter, CEO of Heavy Weight Records on 29.1.2015 in Compton, California.
The two had been friends; the same can be said about Knight’s relationship with the murdered Rappers Biggie and Tupac. Knight’s incarceration loosened the tongues of many witnesses, and opened up new avenues, including the involvement of the LAPD.
Suge Knight, born 1965 in Compton, Cal., was raised by his mother, keeping him away from the gang violence of the area: he was not allowed to play with certain groups and later had a college career as a footballer, followed by a short stint with the NFL team LA Raiders in 1987. Two years later, he began his career as music producer, which led to his founding of Death Row Records.
The company was soon involved in the Bloods versus Crypts gang warfare which overshadowed the music business along with the ultra violence and abusive lifestyle of his star performers. Substance abuse also featured heavily. Rapper Tupac Shakur was born in 1971 East Harlem to parents who were members of the Black Panther organisation. When he was jailed in 1995 for sexual offences, Knight paid his bail and added Tupac to his DRR stable a year later. Friends of Tupac (amongst them the producer Pam Brooks) remember how prison had changed Shakur: he was no longer interested in the progressive politics of his parents, but indulged in extreme behaviour: the henchmen of DRR even had women fighting each other, watching the proceedings like dog fights.
After Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg had left DRR, Shakur was the victim of a shooting in September 1996 in the aftermath to watching a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas. He died six days later. Biggie’s drive-by murder a year later in LA, again was credited to Knight, even though some members of DRR claim Tupac had a relationship with Faith Evans, Biggie’s wife.
But LAPD officer Russell Poole (1956-2015) was convinced that two of his colleges from the LAPD, Rafael Perez and David Mack, were involved in the shootings of both men. Poole died of a heart attack, after fighting in vain to uncover the guilt of the two officers. Mack was a former middle-distance runner, participating in the World Championship, but later became a bank robber and was sentenced to fourteen years in prison, until his release in 2010.
Even LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks admitted to the involvement of the two officers. Meanwhile, Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, claimed the LAPD knew the identity of her son’s murderers at the 20th anniversary of his death: A photo of three people, all clad in the red of the Blood gangs, features the daughter of LAPD chief Bernard Parks. It had since disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Last Man Standing is a like an old fashioned who-done-it, with the background of sex and drugs fuelling an over-the-top atmosphere. DoP Joan Churchill adds a certain sense of realism, but Broomfield’s pursuit of the truth still feels very much like fiction. A roller-coaster ride of a very deadly music business. AS
WORLD PREMIERE SCREENING + EXCLUSIVE Q&A WITH NICK BROOMFIELD | HOSTED BY TREVOR NELSON | IN CINEMAS ONE NIGHT ONLY 30TH JUNE | TICKETS:WWW.LASTMANSTANDING.FILM
| ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 2ND JULY