Movie Review
Get Rich or Die Tryin'
Get Rich or Die Tryin' poster
By Scott Sycamore     Published November 15, 2005
US Release: November 9, 2005

Directed by: Jim Sheridan
Starring: 50 Cent , Mykelti Williamson , Terrence Howard , Viola Davis

Running Time: 134 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $30,981,850
It presents many good elements and a story that builds up steam, but then kind of fizzles out instead of escalating into a glorious explosion of movie magic.
So here we have the silver screen debut of multi-platinum hip-hop overlord 50 Cent. This movie is part of a calculated effort to mold 50 into something much bigger than a best-selling rapper: the idea is to make the man into a full-fledged brand name unto himself (including shoes, clothes, and the upcoming video game "Bulletproof"). An autobiographical vanity-piece movie is a crucial part of this particular corporate metamorphosis. It lands in theaters at what is presumably just the right time to connect with the rest of the franchise puzzle pieces.

Given that the movie is a shameless commercial product at its root, it has a surprisingly gritty tone as well as some unexpected natural realism. Of course the failure or success hinges on the performance of 50 himself (as a very thinly disguised version OF himself, named Young Caesar), and - wouldn't you know - he does a decent job. One could argue that it's not really "acting" at all; after all, who couldn't play one's own self? But 50 doesn't just come off as a rapper mugging for the camera; you actually believe him in the world of the film. And it's a vicious world indeed; the streets of New York are presented in such a despairing fashion that it's easy to empathize with people locked in the struggle. Some ghetto movies go too over-the-top in search of entertainment value; Get Rich keeps it real and lets the urban environment hang like a constant weight on the shoulders of us spectators.

This movie is less about cartoonishly villainous gangster characters than it is about shifting alliances and the deception that rules the streets. There is much ambivalence in relation to the drug-dealing thugs who populate this territory: they are certainly not likable, but they are not wretched monsters either. This is especially true of 50's character: he flashes his big smile and can seem almost sweet at times, but we know throughout that his moral compass doesn't exactly point in the right direction (which is pretty much implicit in the movie's title). And this might be the main problem, both with 50's real-life rapping as well as his acting: he's just too violent, hateful, and egomaniacal to really gain sympathy as a likable entity. He definitely has charm, but it's the charm of the evil man; nobody would be mistaken in thinking that, underneath the surface, there's a cobra waiting to strike. This feeling is made even more immediate and jarring by the knowledge that 50's real-life escapades were every bit as grimy as what we hear and see in the entertainment packages. He's just not someone you would want to see people use as a role model.

In the way the picture is handled and directed, it seemed to me to be in a style very similar to a lot of other movies nowadays. But I can't quite put my finger on what it is. It's movie-ish without being cinematic, nicely put-together without being glossy or showy. It displays a high level of competence but falls short of excellence. It definitely doesn't have the feeling of a throwaway cash-in project; the presence of true urban drama is apparent. I guess the main problem might just be in the way the story's handled: it's too leisurely, and gets confusing at times. The pacing of the narrative just seemed uneven. Certain parts of the life story are shrunken and others over-expanded, so the experience feels lopsided and occasionally wears on one?s patience. The "charge" that's supposed to come during these types of movies is only found sporadically.

There are definitely some good things about this flick, and I was pleasantly surprised to some degree in terms of 50's acting as well as the tone and content of the story. Several good scenes populate the proceedings; I found the prison segment especially harrowing. At times, I was in this movie more than I expected to be. It's just those other times that aren't so engulfing. This film suffers from an extremely common ailment in movies: it presents us with many good elements and a story that builds up steam, but then kind of fizzles out instead of escalating into a glorious explosion of movie magic. If you?re not too demanding, you just might enjoy the film on some level. I admire it a little more than I actually like it.
Scott's Grade: C+
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
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