Film Reviews

GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’

By • Nov 9th, 2005 •

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Paramount Pictures / An Interscope / Shady / Aftermath / MTV Films production
Running time — 112 minutes / MPAA rating: R

Surrounded by strong talent and the skillful director, 50 Cent shows a quiet charisma. He doesn’t embarrass himself.

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 it 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.


Cast:
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

Credits:
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

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