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'Get Rich or Die Tryin' Just Not Gangsta
50 Cent can't act, and his story just isn't unique
Brian Orndorf (briano)     Print Article 
Published 2005-11-10 14:12 (KST)   
Marcus (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) has spent his life in the shadows of drug dealing. When his hustler mother is killed, Marcus takes over the family business, and soon earns a small fortune as a dealer for a local crack top dog (a raspy Bill Duke). Quickly rising up the dealer ranks with his pals, Marcus casually maintains his other love: rapping.

When his thug life begins to conflict with his family life (including Joy Bryant), Marcus finds himself dealing with prison time and brutal murder attempts. Bloodied and broken, he decides to chase his rap dream full time, frustrating those who would rather see him remain a thug for life.

©2005 Paramount
The recipe seems simple enough: grab an A-list filmmaker and team him up with a gangsta rap star looking for a little respectability to go with their millions. In 2002's "8 Mile," the cocktail worked, due to a director (Curtis Hanson) who knew how to separate the celebrity from the man to create pure underdog cinema. The loosely autobiographical 50 Cent vehicle, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" doesn't share the same aspirations; instead, it's overwhelmed by the temptation to exploit the urban criminal underworld and gangsta mayhem, leaving out crucial clues as to why 50 Cent is the star he is today.

Scripted by former "Sopranos" writer Terence Winter, "Get Rich" aspires to be the new "Godfather," layering on a thick world of hoodlums and their dirty deeds. So, who better to direct a film about rap and urban American violence than Jim Sheridan, the filmmaker who has spent his career detailing the Irish experience cinematically?

Coming off his most inspired work, the endlessly lovely "In America," Sheridan directs "Get Rich" like a kid with a new toy to spend the afternoon with. He covers the action with handheld camerawork to convey street authenticity, elects for a dark and brooding color palette as a backdrop for 50 Cent's world, and seems to be getting his jollies arranging his kingpins on the crack dealer chessboard as if he was Coppola Jr. Trouble is, Sheridan is in way over his head with this material.

The comparison of "Get Rich" to "8 Mile" is perfectly fair since the films, in several ways, are completely interchangeable. What "Get Rich" lacks is focus in the rise of the thug-to-rap-star. The picture has too many characters and a strong desire to follow a mechanical crime story, leaving Sheridan scrambling around trying to tell a tale that has neither flow, nor personality. Sheridan is also stuck with an acting novice in 50 Cent, who makes quite an unspectacular debut.

Curtis Hanson was wise to keep Eminem's dialog curt in "8 Mile," instead using the rapper's expressions to drive the performance. 50 Cent is a wooden, flaccid screen presence, only registering two facial expressions: angry or confused (sometimes, if the audience is good, he shows us angry and confused). There's no way Sheridan can work properly with such limited means.

50 Cent's scenes are embarrassing to watch, especially when he's paired up with the likes of Terrence Howard (as Marcus's manager), who run laps around the rap star without even breaking a sweat. 50 Cent is too reserved of a performer to be carrying his own film, and his novice acting renders the drama of "Get Rich" impotent and, unfortunately, irrelevant.

What ends up tripping "Get Rich" the most is both the screenplay and Sheridan's inability to successfully convey Marcus's desire to express himself in the rap world. The parts are there on the screen, but it never assembles correctly. Sheridan is much too enamored with slinging drugs and brandishing guns to layer the birth of Marcus's rap skills appropriately.

A mid-movie prison sequence is supposed to illuminate the audience on the character's thirst for music and a lifestyle change. The moment never comes. Instead, the leap is made only through the script and never earned organically, neutering Marcus's eventual frustrations later on, and confusing the audience as to why this change in his life is so important. Amazingly, having the lead character shot multiple times still doesn't quite sell his desperation. Marcus never seems hungry for the rap world. He merely seems to stumble into it by chance.

"Get Rich or Die Tryin'" is an empty exercise in urban mythmaking, even going so far as to end the film with some Christ imagery to help pound home the rebirth idea. The 50 Cent fanbase might already be predisposed to loving this valentine to the rapper's ego no matter the quality, but other audiences might not be as forgiving with this half-realized urban fairy tale.

D+
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Brian Orndorf

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