Film Reviews: Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Get Rich or Die Tryin’
Starring 50 Cent and Terrence Dashon Howard. Directed by Jim Sheridan. Written by Terence Winter. Rated R.
Do Drugs, Do Rhyme

50 Cent’s confusing new movie shows how to rob a rapper of his mystique.


Ask most non-fans of hip-hop music about 50 Cent, and they’ll think, “Oh, that rapper who got shot.” He’s also that rapper who’s now making his acting debut, starring in a movie based loosely on his own violence-ridden early life entitled (like his first album) Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The thing is, if any of those non-fans go into this movie, they won’t have much more of an idea of who 50 Cent is after they come out.

His thinly fictionalized alter ego is named Marcus, a young man who turns to selling drugs on the streets of New York City after his mother (Serena Streeter) is killed doing the same job. A stretch in prison and the love of a childhood friend (Joy Bryant) turn him onto music as a way out of the ghetto, but turning his back on the gangsta life brings down the wrath of his mentor Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who’s murdered his way through the ranks to become a kingpin.

Performing under his given name of Curtis Jackson, “Fiddy” isn’t much of an actor. He is better in the rare moments when he lets down his guard, like in an early scene where he revels in his good fortune while taking his new Mercedes for its first drive. Elsewhere he’s a sluggish and inert presence, but he’s not the reason this movie fails. No, that would be Oscar-nominated Irish director Jim Sheridan, who brings a considerable track record to his first Hollywood assignment. Here he falls on his ass, dragging the film out to 117 minutes by telling the story at a pace more suited to an epic. His surehanded melodramatic instincts from My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father desert him; he seems lost outside of his native Irish milieu. The script by tv writer Terence Winter doesn’t help. The supporting characters are mostly one-dimensional, especially the women, and the subplots get lost amid the general haze of robberies and shootings. The resolution of Majestic’s storyline is downright ridiculous, allowing 50 — excuse me, Marcus — to burnish his street-thug image while paying lip service to the idea that he’s walking away from that life.

Worst of all, the movie gives no insight into the music, which is presumably why we’re interested in 50 Cent in the first place. The soundtrack doesn’t have that many songs on it, and the new ones that are here don’t catch 50 in his top form. We’ve seen the “angry young man channels his rage into creative expression” story before, and neither the drama nor the music here are strong enough to bear that out. The presence of Terrence Dashon Howard (in a supporting role that I still can’t figure out — is he supposed to be a savvy business manager or a psycho gangsta?) only serves to remind you of Hustle & Flow, a much better movie about rap from earlier this year. 50 Cent’s flick would have been better off giving free rein to his catty sense of humor; picking fights with fellow rappers seems to be what he does best. Instead, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is an incoherent bore, and it turns its subject into one as well.

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