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"Get Rich or Die Tryin'"

Directed by Jim Sheridan.
Written by Terence Winter.
Starring Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Terrence Howard, Joy Bryant and Bill Duke.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  11/15/05

Yeah, I like 50 Cent's music...but, his movie is just so-so.  That's not because the story behind "Get Rich or Die Tryin'"--the new film based on the life of Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson--isn't interesting...it's because 50 is playing himself.

Watching the chronicles of how 50 grew up in New York, you get an idea of how tough things must have been on the future rap star; his mom was murdered when he was 12, he turned to drug dealing to get by, and he witnessed his fair share of bodybags while growing up in the streets.  Working under a local kingpin named Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Marcus (that's 50 to you and me) is an all-world performer in the streets, and after pushing the Colombians out of his dealing territory Marcus becomes the cream of the crop faster than you can say "Nino Brown."  Soon after he reaches the top (note:  I think he was maybe 21 at this point in the film), he reunites with a childhood friend, Charlene (Joy Bryant), and they rekindle those days of playing "Operation" together real quick-like.  Meanwhile, more drama unfolds in the streets, leading Marcus to prison...and it is there that Marcus gets serious about his love of the rap game.  Cue the lights!

As clichéd as this storyline is--even IF 50 Cent lived out this scenario--director Jim Sheridan (the Irish guy that has directed three of Daniel Day-Lewis's films in addition to the Oscar-nominated "In America") somehow keeps this puppy moving thanks to just enough interesting characters and gang violence to not make you think you are watching yet another urban drug drama.  Also working against this film:  the more powerful Eminem rap-will-get-me-out-of-this-mess drama "8 Mile" and this year's more original rap-will-get-me-out-of-this-mess...or-will-it? drama "Hustle and Flow."  Worse:  Terrence Howard, the star of that latter flick, is the sidekick of Marcus in "Get Rich...", making the film feel even more familiar than it needs to.  All of that said, the movie feels a bit tired only because of the recent films that it reminds you of, not because it isn't good.

The real issue for me is the lead actor himself, 50 Cent.  The tunes are great, that's easy.  But 50 as an actor isn't as interesting as I thought he would be; he also seems to be grinning through almost everything that happens to his character, which is partially his natural expression but also his easygoing nature when it comes to...well, anything at all.  What works with 50's music is just how crazy-chill he is on the mic; what doesn't work with his acting (which you have to imagine is how 50 is in real life) is that he seems to be sleepwalking through almost everything.  Rappers being rappers, I'm sure that 50 never considered having an actor play out his life, but I think it would have made "Get Rich..." a much stronger film.  It was so glaring to me that I was left gasping when the Charlene character--a graceful, beautiful woman that is looking forward to a career as a dancer--was like "Damn, I'm down for some Marcus!" and took up with him romantically right away.  How am I supposed to buy into that?

The soundtrack is hot, as expected, and some of the scenes really are powerful, none more so than the film's sequence (and real-life re-enactment, apparently) when Marcus is nearly gunned down by a former colleague.  It's a legendary story, but can you imagine getting shot nine times and not dying?  NINE TIMES????  It's almost O.J.-in-"The Naked Gun"-funny, the idea that someone could get shot at point-blank range that many times and not die, but it really happened and it's shocking to watch 50 play out the sequence as an actor that almost ended his real life.  Most of the support is solid; in addition to Howard and Bryant, longtime character actor Bill Duke is brief but powerful and Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays the heavy with a cool smoldering eyes effect, in addition to being a total bastard.

Overall, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" isn't bad, but it's really nothing to write home about.  The awesome music sequences in "8 Mile" and "Hustle and Flow" put this film to shame, but outside of that, all three share a similar element of rags-to-nicer-rags mentality that is engaging.  Now, on to that soundtrack...

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09