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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

eFilmcritic Archive: "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'" (2005)

A couple years ago at the MTV Video Awards, Chris Rock talked about the 50 Cent phenomenon and noted that the only reason the rapper has become so famous is because he was shot nine times. Nobody talks much about the music, just about the fact that he has taken nine bullets and has lived to tell the tale. His tale indeed gets told through a two+-hour movie, one that seems to exist for the sake of this fact. 50 Cent—otherwise known as Curtis Jackson, who in the film is a fictional character named Marcus—has one of those stories that would make an interesting movie, but maybe a better movie after he’s had a full career. At the moment, he’s still just a guy who got shot nine times and put out a couple hit albums.

I’m not a fan of 50 Cent. I just don’t find him to be a compelling wordsmith. He lacks a certain charisma that would justify his success. His music and lyrics don’t grab me the way Disposable Heroes of Hiphopricy, Public Enemy or even Eminem on a good day would. Gangsta rap in general doesn’t do it for me, but that also doesn’t mean that one can’t make a good movie about someone whom I don’t like. I’m not a fan of Eminem either and I liked his movie just fine.

In fact, one of the great ironies about “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” is that it co-stars Terrance Howard, who has so far given the best performance of this year as a pimp who pursues his passion for rapping in the entertaining and poetic “Hustle & Flow.” Here, Howard takes a backseat to 50 Cent, who does okay playing himself, I guess, but whose acting career probably won’t go far beyond this role. It’s not that he’s a bad actor. It’s just that he doesn’t have the screen presence that would warrant a full career.

The movie starts out with a robbery gone wrong, the event that led to the infamous shooting, but then segues into a flashback to Marcus as a child. He has never known his father and his mother was killed at an early age, leaving Marcus to live with his Grandparents (Viola Davis and Sullivan Walker). He remains in the drug and gangsta culture throughout his whole life and carries around a picture of Rick James, mainly because he bears a striking resemblance to the man who killed his mother.

Eventually, Marcus catches up with an old neighborhood friend, Charlene (Joy Bryant), who laughs at first when she hears what Marcus has been up to with his life. “I’m a gangster…I’m a rapper…No, I’m a gangster rapper.” She finally realizes it’s true and remains his salvation throughout the rest of the story, even when he lands in prison. There, he meets Bama (Terrence Howard), who appoints himself as Marcus’s manager when they get out.

The movie was directed by Jim Sheridan, a curious choice, but also an intelligent one. Sheridan has directed gritty prison dramas (“In the Name of the Father,” “The Boxer) and knows his way around the streets of New York (“In America), and he does lend the movie a certain air of authenticity (or as much as a 50-year old Irishman can anyway). But the movie doesn’t seem to have any conviction behind it that this story needs to be told. It’s too long, it doesn’t take the rags-to-riches story into any new territory and doesn’t pulsate with life or convey the exhilaration of composing a rhyme scheme or realizing a personal vision the way “Hustle & Flow or “8 Mile did. In the end, it’s a movie stuck within the confines of what is generally an extremely well-marketed and calculated “legend.” You guessed it: He was shot nine times!

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