|Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005)
Starring: 50 Cent, Terrence Howard, Joy Bryant
Director: Jim Sheridan
50 Cent: Gangster, hustler, rapper, and now really bad actor. With the success of “8 Mile,” the sort-of true biopic of rapper Eminem, it was inevitable that his supposed protégé would get the same treatment. And who better to tell Fiddy’s urban rags to riches story than a 57-year-old Irishman? Sigh…Hollywood sucks. Director Jim Sheridan (“In the Name of the Father,” “In America”) paints a pretty picture, but ultimately has no clue what he’s painting.
“Get Rich or Die Tryin’” opens up predictably with a reenactment of the much publicized real-life attempt on Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s life in which he was shot nine, count’em, nine times by a would-be assassin. Jackson miraculously survived and the instant street cred exalted him into rap’s new poster child. Following the shooting, the film backtracks to Jackson’s – sorry, the character Marcus’ – childhood. Dirt poor but happy, and loved by his mother, Marcus is every bit the innocent child. But when his mother is mysteriously killed, he is forced into the already overcrowded home of his grandparents.
It is here where Marcus is forced to endure such hardships as sleeping in the basement and wearing second-hand shoes (read: not $100 Nikes). Marcus inevitably turns to a world of crime, motivated, we are told, not by a desire to improve his situation but so he can buy fancy material possessions. A less than noble pursuit, but in a world where shoe and designer label companies aggressively market to urban youth, inundating them with advertisements for products they can’t afford, an all too sad reality.
Not that the film mentions this. No, that would be a different movie, one Hollywood sure as hell is not going to pay for. No, what follows is a shameless glorification of one man’s quest for bling. For a solid hour, the audience is treated to Marcus’ foray into coke dealing and his accumulation of material objects. As a kid he gets his new shoes, and later when he finally grows up, a shiny new white Mercedes. Granted, various mobsters help Marcus along, but instead of showing us a kid caught up in circumstance, we see an all-too-willing participant.
As previously mentioned, Jackson can’t act. He’s terrible. His performance is stilted, awkward, and embarrassing to watch, and unfortunately it seems to rub off on an otherwise talented cast. The beautiful Joy Bryant, who plays Marcus’ love interest, has nothing to feed off of with all of her scenes with Jackson. Terrence Howard, the actor who turned in two brilliant performances this year in “Hustle and Flow” and “Crash,” sticks out like a sore thumb in this film. Playing Bama, a friend Marcus makes while in jail, Howard stumbles through his lines as if he were in a high school play. Even Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, currently playing the bad-ass Mr. Eko on the television show “Lost” this season, is surprisingly weak as Majestic, Marcus’ mentor in crime.
“Get Rich or Die Tryin’” does manage some moments worth watching, however. In one fantastic sequence late in the film, Sheridan intercuts Marcus’s struggle to survive in the hospital after being riddled with bullets with flashbacks of his mother giving birth to him. The film also vividly portrays violent periods in Marcus’ life, like the aforementioned shooting and his shiving in a jailhouse shower, with affecting detail. And the ongoing joke in the film of Marcus hunting for his mother’s Rick James-looking killer is rather humorous.
It is in the film’s last act where we finally see Marcus, or rather his alter ego Young Cesar, actually rap. Although 50 Cent’s true talent is finally shown off, the scenes do not show an artist trying to escape his violent past (something that would have been endearing), but a rapper using his talent to diss his competition (who is not from “the hood”) and their management. The result of course is a pointless blood feud that results in several deaths. This is the story of 50 Cent’s rise to fame? A tale of a man who kept it real, no matter the cost, in his quest to go from the ghetto to being ghetto fabulous? Who cares?
One lousy extra, a 30-minute documentary that says as much about the actual production of the film as 50's songs make sense.