Surrounded by strong talent and the skillful director, 50 Cent shows a quiet charisma. He doesn’t embarrass himself.
GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’
My weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” appears every Monday on FromTheBalcony.com. Victoria Alexander’s “Movies, Gossip & Sin” is on XRadio.biz Fridays from Noon to 2 P.M.
Sure I know who 50 Cent is, but I don’t hum his music. I know he was a drug dealer before he became a rapper. I know he got shot nine times. I read his Playboy interview. I liked his honesty about the cutthroat music business. It is just as nasty as the illegal drug business.
Director Jim Sheridan, not working with his daughters (did they finally get jobs on their own merits?) must have showed his gritty IN AMERICA as his 50 Cent audition tape. GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’ is good because of Sheridan’s skill with actors and his ability to show poverty without sentimentality. Sure, GET RICH dresses up the story real pretty for us, but it is still interesting and well done. Like HUSTLE & FLOW, it doesn’t glamorize a corrupt lifestyle. It does illustrate the reality behind the gangsta hype. Superstar rapper 50 Cent didn’t wander into a blaze of bullets. He put himself there and then he – literally - crawled out.
I’m not judgmental: Obviously people like doing drugs. This beast is here by VIP invitation. Someone has to run up to the cars and negotiate the deal. Someone has to do the dirty work so American youth can get high on the weekends.
When in doubt, blame the mother. Marcus (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) doesn’t know who his father is. His loving mother is a South Bronx drug dealer who is murdered when he is twelve. Marcus goes to live with his grandparents. They are already burdened with a house filled with their kids and grandchildren. Because Marcus is teased at school he decides to go into the family business to make sneaker money. Marcus has no choice but to become a pre-teen entrepreneur. He works long hours and doesn’t “get high on his own supply.” He’s a responsible drug dealer with a gun. While still living in his grandparents laundry room, he gets noticed by real gangsters. The introduction of crack cocaine in the urban marketplace bloats profit margins and soon Marcus is running his own “crew.”
Marcus gets arrested. While in prison he starts rapping. He’s not very good but soon other cons, and even the guards, begin chanting his riffs. He gets a prison “manager,” Bama (Terrence Howard), and decides to pursue a career as a rapper. But his drug gangsta associates are more interested in his earning capability than music ambitions. A tug-of-drug-war over territory erupts and Marcus is targeted.
Who killed Marcus’s mother? Rightly, his mother’s death shadows him. We know the quiet Marcus will not forget the “Rick James” figure who he saw shoot his mother. It gives us a hook to understanding the emotionally damaged Marcus. Without parents and within the limitations of his environment, Marcus wants to rise above the overwhelming obstacles that trap him.
This semi-autobiographical movie hinges on 50 Cent who is in every scene. In itself, the story has undeniable appeal but 50 Cent is engaging and has real potential as an actor. Sheridan and writer Terence Winter have worked brilliantly with the untrained 50 Cent. They have cleverly used his limitations as assets. While making Marcus’s lack of emotional depth a character trait – he is closed off because of the lack of love growing up – 50 Cent is able to express a humility that engages us.
Sheridan surrounds 50 Cent with dynamic actors that sweep him along. Terrence Howard is fantastic and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, as a gangsta rival, is so menacing that doesn’t appear that 50 Cent needed much coaching when acting alongside him. As his love interest, Charlene, Joy Bryant grounds the inexperienced 50 Cent. Only Bill Duke, as a drug kingpin, appears to be in his own movie starring just himself.
Finally, and all too briefly, at the end of the film while the credits are rolling, the rapper 50 Cent emerges and we see what all the noise is about. In other hands this could have been a mistake, but Sheridan clearly loves the genre, the music and his newly-minted star.
Victoria Alexander can be contacted by visiting www.FilmsInReview.com or, directly, at email@example.com.
GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN'
An Interscope/Shady/Aftermath/MTV Films production
Director: Jim Sheridan
Screenwriter: Terence Winter
Producers: Jimmy Iovine, Paul Rosenberg, Chris Lighty, Jim Sheridan
Executive producers: Gene Kirkwood, Stuart Parr, Van Toffler, David Gale, Arthur Lappin, Daniel Lupi
Director of photography: Declan Quinn
Production designer: Mark Geraghty
Music: Quincy Jones, Gavin Friday, Maurice Seezer
Costumes: Francine Jamison-Tanchuck
Editors: Conrad Buff, Roger Barton
Marcus: Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson
Bama: Terrence Howard
Charlene: Joy Bryant
Levar: Bill Duke
Majestic: Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje
Keryl: Omar Benson Miller
Justice: Tory Kittles
Grandma: Viola Davis
Young Marcus: Marc John Jefferies
Antwan: Ashley Walters
Katrina: Serena Reeder
Running time -- 112 minutes
MPAA rating: R
50 Cent dies trying in his film debut
By Josh Bell
Get Rich or Die Tryin' is a notable film for exactly two reasons: It's the screen debut of rapper 50 Cent, who plays a fictionalized version of himself, and it pairs him with Irish director Jim Sheridan, best known for prestigious dramas such as My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father. Take away the rapper and the famous director, and all you've got left is your standard, tired gangster (or gangsta) movie.
In that case, Sheridan and 50 (who's credited as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) need to bring a great deal to the project to elevate it above the mundane. Although Sheridan occasionally does just that, Jackson's flat, unimpressive screen presence and muddled line delivery does little to convey the kind of superstar charisma that has vaulted him to the top of the pop-music charts. It's true that rappers often make great actors, and Jackson has the advantage of essentially playing himself, but he is consistently unable to rise to the challenge.
Unlike the 2002 Eminem vehicle, 8 Mile, to which it will be endlessly compared, Get Rich is not primarily a film about one man's musical aspirations. Jackson's Marcus does dream of becoming a rapper, and begins to achieve that dream by the time the movie ends, but his ambition is treated almost as an afterthought and takes a backseat to the typical gangster rise-and-fall story. Marcus grows up poor in the Bronx, where his mother is a drug dealer and his father is a mystery. Thanks to her criminal activities, Marcus' mother is murdered while her son is still a child, and he's raised by his grandparents alongside a gaggle of aunts, uncles and cousins.
Marcus grows up to follow in his mom's footsteps, even working for Majestic (a menacing Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje), the same hustler who may or may not have killed his mother. He gets himself the requisite love interest, a thoughtful childhood friend named Charlene (Joy Bryant), and eventually ends up doing a stint in jail, where he meets smooth-talking Bama (Terrence Howard), who encourages him to give up drug dealing and pursue his maddeningly vague dreams of becoming a rapper.
What follows is as predictable as any second-rate, made-for-cable 'hood-life flick, full of cliché characters and hokey dialogue. Screenwriter Terence Winter, despite time spent on the writing staff of The Sopranos, doesn't do much to deviate from familiar crime-movie elements. That leaves it to Jackson to sell Marcus as a character we can care about, especially as he gets shot point-blank nine times (as Jackson did in real life) and lies near death on an operating table. The movie is framed by this event, but it's no more emotionally affecting than any of the other bits of senseless violence that dot Marcus' life.
Even when their performances are unfocused, the best rappers-turned-actors, such as Ice Cube, Will Smith and Ludacris, bring magnetic personalities and unbridled exuberance to the screen. Jackson spends most of the movie scowling and looking vaguely uncomfortable, like someone at a party with a video camera unexpectedly turned on him. Sheridan, who told the story of Irish immigrants in New York in his last film, In America, lends a humanizing touch to the often-generic proceedings, and occasionally catches a transcendent image amid the chaos of thug life.
What he doesn't do is find any sort of resonance beyond the worn-out beats of the gangsta story. While 8 Mile gave you a real sense of the artistic drive and creative energy that pushed Eminem's character into the rap world, Get Rich treats Marcus' rapping as nothing greater than a career option more palatable than drug dealing. There's little focus on what makes Marcus talented or unique as an artist, and nothing as exhilarating as 8 Mile's rap battles or the studio scenes from this summer's superior Hustle & Flow.
Without any unique hooks to elevate it above the pack, Get Rich comes off as a poorly conceived vanity project for Jackson, and a misguided bid for street cred by Sheridan. The intentions may have been better than that, but the result falls disappointingly flat.
Guide to ratings symbols:
* * * * - Plan your schedule around it
* * * - See it when you can
* * - Worth a look if you're bored
* - Don't waste your time
&#$! (Bomb) - Avoid at all costs
# Running Time: 134 min.
# Genre: Drama
# Distributor/Producer: Paramount Pictures/MTV Films
# Director: Jim Sheridan
# Screenplay: Terence Winter
# Cast: Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Joy Bryant, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Bill Duke
# MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content, sexuality and nudity
GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN' *
"Get Rich or Die Tryin,'" a vaguely biographical Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson vehicle, chronicles the rise of a disillusioned New York drug dealer to rap stardom, and his constant struggles over identity. The film itself is also in an identity crisis.
Director Jim Sheridan, who has ably chronicled the modern Irish experience, seems in this case ill-prepared for the American urban saga, or biography, or crime syndicate drama. The film devolves into a pastiche of all three, bogging down in too many characters, a few instances of ill-justified Draconian violence, and too few answers as to how 50 Cent became who he is. The inevitable comparisons to "8 Mile" - Curtis Hanson's rendering of rapper Eminem's rise in Detroit - will find "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" lacking the kind of intimate details that let us empathize, even if we can't sympathize, with a larger-than-life star.
He is hard to sympathize with, especially when Sheridan reveres him as a cherub in glowing light as he resurrects himself from a hospital bed, having been riddled with nine bullets, smacking of narcissism and claiming in tiresome voiceover that the one last robbery was the worst decision of his life (not the 20-something years of gun toting, drug-dealing and family betrayal that preceded it). The strife that his lifestyle causes in his love relationship will boil and resolve itself in a single, lazy scene.
Someone is shirking responsibility here - either 50 Cent himself, Sheridan, or writer Terence Winter (TV's "The Sopranos"). If we're to believe that Marcus (50 Cent) is a construct of his environment (poor, fatherless, mourning at an early age the death of his drug-dealing mother), then we need to connect with more than just the circumstances. We need to see the emotional processes at work to explain why Marcus can't simply walk away from a string of bad choices.
As a teenager, Marcus entrenches himself in the gangster syndicate run by Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who we gather is somehow connected to his mother's death. Marcus makes a key transformation when he orders retribution for the shooting of fellow gangster and childhood friend Antwan (Ashley Walters), who will never walk again. But as presented, the shooting of Antwan by a rival gang of Colombians inflicts nothing but physical harm. We don't understand the depth of Marcus' relationship with Antwan, or its impact on his life. Why didn't Marcus simply choose to walk away, rather than spark a gang war? Moreover, why does his decision take only a few seconds? And how does it affect his relationship with girlfriend Charlene (Joy Bryant)? (All we get from her is this observation: "You got blood on your shoes. Maybe this life isn't for me.")
There's no time for all of the questions - not with all the underworld mechanics that the film has to show. Majestic's boss Levar (Bill Duke), a raspy-voiced Godfather archetype, inspires fear in his underlings by ordering the teeth of a traitor removed one-by-one with pliers. Levar has a special connection to Marcus and his mother that could, by itself, warrant an entire film, but Winter's screenplay barely trifles with this relationship.
As Marcus hones his musical talents in prison, a revolt is brewing in his neighborhood - the same place he was born. The people are tired of the drug trade. They're tired of supporting musicians supported by drugs. They're leading nonviolent protests. All of this happens in montage, and we never see the impetus or the characters behind it.
There is so much territory to be explored in Sheridan's film, and yet we reach the end of 134 minutes with more questions than we began with. Visually, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" is smart and visceral - what we've come to expect from Sheridan, especially after "In America," a tight, focused account of the travails of an Irish immigrant family in New York, and proof that Sheridan has the ability to draw valuable insights about more of this nation than just its east coast. I don't believe he's through with that pursuit, but "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" - trying to cover so much, so fast - does little to push the venture along.
"Get Rich or Die Tryin'" is showing at The Rose, 1250 SSW Loop 323. Call (903) 592-7000 for show times.
Mark Collette covers Smith County. He can be reached at 903.596.6303. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson as Marcus
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Majestic
Joy Bryant as Charlene
Omar Benson Miller as Keryl
Tory Kittles as Justice
Terrence Howard as Bama
Ashley Walters as Antwan
Marc John Jefferies as Young Marcus
Viola Davis as Grandma
Sullivan Walker as Grandpa
Serena Reeder as Katrina
Bill Duke as Levar
Mpho Koaho as Junebug
Russell Hornsby as Odell
Joseph Pierre as Uncle Deuce
Artistic license and 50 Cent's questionable acting talent aside, this is a decent crime-drama thanks to a solid script and a talented supporting cast. It's a good introduction to the rapper and his music, but also an entertaining movie in its own right.
When Marcus (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) was just a teen, his mother was murdered, leaving him an orphan. His mother's "friend" Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) takes Marcus under his wing, getting him involved in the world of drugs and crime, where Marcus quickly moves up the ranks. Things change for him when he gets reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart Charlene (Joy Bryant), and after being shot by a rival drug dealer, Marcus decides to use his skills as a rapper to get out of his life of crime.
This may be one of the more fascinating movies of the year, if only for the fact that it's the acting debut of rapper 50 Cent AKA Curtis Jackson, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of his benefactor Eminem into the world of film. Like Eminem's "8 Mile", "Get Rich" is loosely based on 50 Cent's own life, which is actually more interesting in the way it's turned into an exciting drama in the vein of "Scarface" or "The Godfather."
If you're not familiar with 50 Cent's music, this is a good way to get up to speed, although a lot of it will leave you wondering how much of this story is real and how much was made up to make a better movie. Still, this biodrama has more in common with "A Beautiful Mind" than "8 Mile" in the way that the story is structured. It starts with a robbery gone wrong followed by "Marcus" being shot on the streets in front of his house, but we don't really have perspective until it flashes back to Marcus' early years on the street running with a gang and selling enough drugs to pay for his first car in cash. When we return to the shooting in the present, the film gets more interesting, as it turns into more of an underdog success story ala "Rocky." Watching Marcus' progress as a rapper from it just being a hobby to him recording in the backroom of his house and making a name on the streets makes a lot of the earlier violence worthwhile.
Another nice touch to the story is how Marcus is taught by his mother before she dies to treat women with respect, something that allows 50 Cent to show a more sensitive side. Rappers often act like misogynist pigs, treating women like sex objects, and Marcus isn't like that. You have to give 50 Cent credit for shying away from the tough guy stereotypes that most "gangsta rappers" exude for the sake of creating a more well-rounded character.
Much of this can be credited to director Jim Sheridan ("In America"), who once again shows that he's got what it takes to make a good movie, even when dealing with a setting or subject matter that isn't his normal stock in trade. Working from a solid script by "The Sopranos" writer Terence Winter, he's made a tough movie that's rarely sugar-coated, but includes all of the elements that makes for quality storytelling.
The supporting cast is great across the board, from Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, best known as Adabisi from HBO's "Oz" and currently starring in ABC's "Lost", to the man of the moment Terence Howard and the gorgeous Joy Bryant as 50's love interest. "Triple A" steals many scenes as Majestic, the story's main antagonist who doesn't like it when Marcus starts breaking away with his own music career. He brings his usual menace to the role, especially in one scene where he threatens Marcus' girlfriend and baby.
By comparison, Howard brings most of the humor to the movie as Marcus' crazy friend Bama, who is ready to shoot anyone at the drop of a hat. A lot of their scenes together are unintentionally funny, like when someone tries to attack Marcus in a prison shower stall, and 50 and Terence Howard are slipping and sliding around completely butt nekkid in the scuffle. It's almost as if "Oz" were a sitcom.
Legendary actor and director Bill Duke is in fine form as the drug kingpin Levar, who runs the show until he's set up for a fall, and Marc John Jefferies is almost better than 50 Cent, while playing the younger Marcus.
What Didn't Work:
Although 50 Cent is not a terrible actor, he's clearly the weak link in the scenes that pair him with much stronger supporting actors. He just doesn't have the energy or the presence to carry the movie as a leading man. Because of this, he just seems to be there in scenes, bringing little in the way of charisma, and parts of the movie, like those involving Marcus' relationship to Charlene, just don't work as well.
Not really being familiar with 50 Cent's music, I was even less impressed with his rapping than his acting. Much of the time, he seemed to be mumbling and completely out of sync with the rhythm of the music, which for all I know, is his style and why people love him. Either that or he was just holding back to try to make it more convincing that he was just starting out as a rapper.
There's something bothersome about a movie glorifying the life of a drug dealer, even if it is meant to deliver a "crime doesn't pay" type message. 50 Cent makes Marcus such a likeable and sympathetic character, but when it comes down to it, he's still a drug dealer and he's still making money at the expense of the poor souls addicted to his crack.
It's going to be hard to avoid comparisons to Eminem's "8 Mile" when you have one of the same actors as part of your crew, and Terence Howard's presence just reminds you how much better "Hustle & Flow" is in terms of a "rags to rapper" type of movie.
The Bottom Line:
Although 50 Cent won't be winning any awards for his acting, he deserves props for being the driving force behind a strong crime-drama that gives a full perspective of his early years as a drug dealer and rapper. Those who aren't fans of his music or rapping should still be able to enjoy it as a crime flick.
Jim Sheridan’s new film, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ has one huge, obvious flaw, and it’s fatal. His star, 50 Cent, aka Curtis Jackson, is painfully bad at acting. This is especially tragic as 50 is playing a character who is based completely on him, and whose life is based on his own. 50’s performance is the filmic equivalent of the Adam Carolla show, where you watch with ever growing horror at the disaster in front of you.
50 spends the film with one look on his face, and it’s the look that you imagine a caveman would have when confronted with a cellphone. Not only is this bad because we need to care about him (he is our protagonist), but because he’s the eye in a hurricane of much more talented actors. Not only does every line they deliver remind us that 50 is like a block of wood they’re acting against (one imagines the tennis balls on sticks used to denote eyelines for CGI monsters give more back to actors), but that they’re acting at all. The whole effect is to demolish suspension of disbelief, keeping us eternally at arm’s length from the film.
The film’s first mistake is introducing Terrence Howard at the beginning. Get Rich opens with a botched robbery, with Howard playing Bama, a crazy best friend in the best Joe Pesci/Johnny Boy from Mean Streets tradition. Howard sizzles – this film completes his great roles trifecta for 2005. Any one of these three great roles – Crash, Hustle & Flow and now Get Rich – could define his career, but the convergence of all of them will be the truly defining thing. And while Bama is a vital, hilarious and frightening character, Sheridan brings him in only to withhold him through much of the rest of the film’s running time.
You see, right after that botched robbery, the 50 Cent character (here known by the name Marcus, or the rap name Little Caesar (the sort of name that feels more like the invention of a screenwriter than a real street kid – how many urban toughs are watching gangster pictures from seventy years ago?)) is shot nine times, and most of the rest of the film becomes a long flashback to how he ended up riddled with bullets in the first place. That flashback stretches out, seemingly forever.
Marcus’ mom is a dope peddler, working for the ghetto kingpin’s right hand man, Mr. Majestic (but this isn’t Charles Bronson – it’s Oz’s Ababisi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, here almost accent-free – but no less menacing. He’s a wonderful dark spot on the movie’s heart, and another actor who reinforces how bad 50 is). When she gets killed, the young boy goes to live with his grandparents, who have eight other mouths to feed. Since they can’t keep him in the designer sneakers he wants, young Marcus starts pushing drugs himself.
Young Marcus grows into 50 Cent, still hustling around town. But now crack is invented (which really makes no sense. I don’t have a good grip on the exact timeline of this film, but going by 50’s own life, crack was on the streets when he was a little kid), and Marcus and his crew work hard and start making it big. Soon, though, someone from his past returns – the girl from across the way, who moved when she was 12. Now she’s a dancer, and improbably has absolutely no problem getting involved with a crack dealer.
That’s one of the film’s bigger logical lapses. Most of Get Rich follows a fairly trite gangster story, and every gangster who will survive the film must have a woman who is better than him, so she can pull him up later. But what does this woman see in this grunting thug? We surely never see it.
All of this business is leading Marcus to prison, and to the birth of a son. In prison he meets Bama (in a shower fight that Sheridan shoots with a strangely objective camera. Is this supposed to be as completely comic as it’s played? Given the nature of Bama’s later scenes, I think so, but at the time it was bizarre, as the film didn’t previously have much of a sense of humor) and decides to go straight – it’s going to be music he slings, not rock. Which is all fine and dandy except that you never buy that.
In 8 Mile, Eminem’s need to be making music was palpable. It was how he expressed himself and escaped himself. 50 isn’t expressing himself. His rhymes are slurred and cluttered, and I often found myself wondering if we were supposed to take the scenes of his nascent rapping to indicate that he was bad at it. If so, he certainly doesn’t get much better until the very end, when he performs live. Which seems miraculous.
There is one thing I liked about the fact that 50’s rapping doesn’t come across well – it makes the whole rap game seem to be about will, and not skill. If there’s one quality that 50 can get across on screen it is sheer pigheaded stubbornness. In this film he is the ultimate self-made man.
There’s not a surprising moment in Get Rich or Die Tryin’. That in and of itself isn’t the worst sin a movie can make – look at how many classic films telegraph every moment a mile away. But the presentation has to be something special, and this film can’t make anything special out of its lead actor. He deflates almost every scene he’s in, and his underplaying of every moment creates rifts between his energy and that of his co-stars, many of whom seem to think they’re in a flashy and mildly silly blaxploitation film. I would like to see that movie – Howard and Akinnuoye-Agbaje certainly present an intriguing trailer for it, as does Predator’s Bill Duke as the ghetto kingpin, ludicrously and wonderfully riffing on Brando in The Godfather.
And where is Jim Sheridan in all this? The movie has small moments that work nicely, but all too often it’s just another grind along the same old, same old path. Get Rich has none of the brutal honestly and careful complexity of his other films about difficult, troubled men – In the Name of the Father and My Left Foot. As the film careens to it’s overly obvious conclusion, we realize that what we have sat through is the two hour narrative version of the rapper’s usual retort to C Delores Tucker and friends: “We’re the black CNN, reporting what we see,” “If I wasn’t rapping about slinging rock and shooting people, I would actually be doing it,” etc etc etc. Those are valid points, but somewhere along the way the idea of actually dramatizing them as fully fleshed out ideas got lost in favor of an aggrandizing story of a man overcoming each and every single last obstacle on his way to starring in his own life story.
5 out of 10
It is curious that in the past two years there have been two biopics of musical giants, Ray and Walk the Line, that, rather than celebrate the respective legends of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, have gone out of their way to emphasize their human foibles, portraying both as self-absorbed addicts—the star as creep instead of idol. Conversely, in Get Rich or Die Tryin', the rapper 50 Cent plays a fictionalized version of himself, a crack dealer and ex-con who is very much the hero. Go figure.
The drama, directed by My Left Foot's Jim Sheridan and written by Terence Winter, begins promisingly with an arresting title sequence that captures the aural appeal of rap. A line of cars snakes down a boulevard, music pouring out of one at maximum volume, and every time the bass line comes in, the entire car shakes from that sonic boom and the picture blurs. It is a terrific opening that the succeeding drama never comes close to matching.
Though many of the incidents in the movie are based on Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's life - the murdered mother, the crack dealing, the jail time, getting shot nine times - here he plays someone else, named Marcus. As a child, he is already rhyming, adopting the moniker "Little Caesar," when someone ices his drug dealer mom. That cuts short his musical dreams as he decides he would rather not play by his grandparents' rules. Instead he begins plying his mother's trade and waiting for the day he will be able to avenge her death. He is only a smalltime pusher, but then crack moves in and suddenly Marcus is rich and the apple of the eye of the powerful men who control the drug traffic in his corner of Queens, Majestic (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) and the local godfather, Levar (the great Bill Duke).
That could be Marcus' entire life, an endless cycle of dealing, gang wars, and prison until he either dies or gets sent up for good. But then he reunites with Charlene (Joy Bryant), the girl he wrote his first rap for way back when (in one of the film's few truly charming moments, he admits that at the time he didn't even know the meaning of his sexually charged lyrics) and, in prison, he meets Bama (Terrence Howard). He can't be with his woman if he is always in the pokey, or if he's in the grave, and while Bama is a little crazy, he is also a savvy businessman who wants to manage Marcus' new career. And so Little Caesar is reborn and Marcus' dreams of hip hop stardom with him.
The movie's insistence on making Marcus a nice guy just caught up in bad circumstances is one of its weaknesses. He is not motivated to sell crack out of a need to survive, but out of avarice—he has to have the right shoes, the right car, whatever. In the meantime, he is laying waste to his neighborhood, both by dealing death and through the endless wars with a rival Colombian gang. Whatever else he may become when he transforms his life (and even that the movie mishandles by then making him a punk when, in a climactic moment, instead of pulling the trigger himself during a confrontation, he lets that responsibility fall on a friend), he is no hero in those early years, quite the opposite.
That is almost a minor flaw, though, compared to the fact that the movie really short shrifts that final act, the music career. The rap aspect, that thing that made 50 Cent a star, the reason people will buy tickets to see Get Rich or Die Tryin' is almost an afterthought. Instead, the movie is just one more trite gangster picture, focusing on the gang wars and the struggle for power between Majestic and Levar, with Marcus caught in the middle. Duke even underlines The Godfather, Scarface, pick-your-favorite-mob movie flavor by channeling Vito Corleone in his portrayal of the don-like Levar. Given that Winter has written extensively for The Sopranos, the emphasis on gang life is perhaps inevitable, but then maybe the production should have gone for a different writer, one with more interest in music. That approach certainly would have been better for 50 Cent, who mainly seems lost on screen. He may be an actor someday. He isn't yet.
Over and over again, characters in Get Rich or Die Tryin' harp about respect, and the consequences when they don't get the respect they believe is their due are generally devastating. It is odd then that the filmmakers have so little respect for their audience. Instead of offering a compelling look at a star's rise to the top against all odds, they offer only more of the same old tired crime clichés. That might be worth 50 Cent(s), but not a $10 movie ticket.
i posted more than one review to show the different perspectives of different respectful critics so that you can get a more in-depth view on the movie and its deliverance... hope this helps.