Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Review
By Shawn McKenzie 06/24/2006
I’ve had many discussions with my fellow critic colleague Reggie McDaniel over what type of musician makes the best actor. We agree that rappers tend to be the best actors, since they are essentially playing a character when they rap. The Oscar, Golden Globe, and Emmy-worthy performances of rappers like Will Smith, Queen Latifah, and Mos Def have proven this correct. I hope that the awful acting of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in the movie Get Rich or Die Tryin’ doesn’t unravel this momentum.
Marcus (50 Cent) is a drug dealer who is trying to change his life around for the benefit of his family by becoming a rapper. He and three associates…Keryl (Omar Benson Miller), Justice (Tory Kittles), and Bama (Terrence Howard), his future rap manager…rob a money-laundering store owned by a Columbian drug lord named Raoul (Walter Alza.) After the robbery, Marcus heads home when an unknown assailant shoots him nine times. When the ninth bullet enters his jaw (the bullet was intended for his head, but someone screaming out Marcus’s name distracted the assailant), he flashes back to his childhood. A 12-year-old Marcus (Marc John Jefferies) lives in a rough Bronx neighborhood with his drug-dealing mom Katrina (Serena Reeder.) He has no idea who his father is, but he has a loving mother in Katrina, who teaches him how to respect women. He is also very protective of his mom…especially when she gets into a fight with a man named Slim (Leon), a Rick James-looking rival drug dealer. Not long after that incident, Katrina is murdered, and Marcus ends up living with his grandparents (Viola Davis and Sullivan Walker) and their huge, extensive family. Despite his grandfather giving him a mattress in the laundry room for him to sleep on, he only has hand-me down clothes to wear, so Marcus goes into “the family business”…dealing drugs. He has beefs with other drug dealers, but he is mentored by Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Katrina’s old boss, who employs the young Marcus to deal drugs for him. The only people who keep him grounded at that time are his grandmother and a childhood friend named Charlene (Rhyon Nicole Brown), for whom he writes a sexually explicit rap for her in his rap alter ego, Young Caesar. He records the song in a mix-tape, but Charlene’s mother (Andrea Grant) intercepts it and ships the girl away to a middle-class neighborhood to get her away from Marcus. Years later, an adult Marcus is still dealing drugs with his crew that consists of Keryl, Justice, and Antwan (Ashley Walters), a childhood friend. They are still dealing drugs for Majestic, and Majestic is getting into the profitable crystal meth market. After Marcus’s grandfather finds Marcus’s gun, and after being arrested for having eight packets of cocaine hidden in his socks, Marcus leaves home. His beefs with rival drug dealers have continued though, which specifically includes a network of Columbian drug dealers, run by Raoul. Majestic’s boss, Levar (Bill Duke), tries to work out a truce between the African Americans and the Colombians, since the Godfather-like leader is headed off for prison, but the killing continues. Majestic doesn’t make things better when he takes over and fans the flames of the turf war. Meanwhile, Marcus reunites with an adult Charlene (Joy Bryant), and the friendship becomes sexual. Unfortunately, the relationship is the only good thing that goes well for him. One night while at a club, the Colombians shoot at Marcus and Antwan, leaving his friend a paraplegic. Marcus retaliates by shooting Raoul (though he doesn’t kill him), and he ends up in prison for the shooting and for possession of cocaine found in his apartment. While in jail, he is saved by another inmate, Bama, who intercepts in a knifing in the shower, which was organized by Raoul. Bama offers to be his manager, which he accepts in order to get himself out of the lifestyle…especially when Charlene tells him that she is pregnant with their child. After he and Bama get out, Marcus wants to give up the thug life and pursue his rap career, but Majestic, who is managing a white rapper of his own named Dangerous (Michael Miller), doesn’t want his number one dealer leaving the drug game to go into the rap game. Old jealousies and rivalries get in the way of Marcus’s goals, which are to be a successful rapper and a responsible father, leading him to where he ends up at the beginning of the movie.
Fiddy’s mentor, Marshall “Eminem” Mathers, turned in a credible performance in 2002’s 8 Mile. Why didn’t 50 achieve the same feat? There were many reasons why.
First, let me list the things that 50 did right. There is his real life story about being shot nine times, which is an interesting story (translated for the screen “Sopranos” writer Terence Winter)…just like how Eminem’s real life story was the basis for the loosely based script of 8 Mile. In another similarity between this movie and 8 Mile is that they were both helmed by Oscar-nominated directors (Curtis Hanson did 8 Mile; Jim Sheridan did this movie.)
It’s some of those things that resulted in what was so wrong about the movie. The story may have been interesting, but 50’s monotone lazy acting derailed any credibility he may have had (ironically, he employs the same style to his rapping…but his rapping abilities are a criticism for another entire review.) 50 might have had better luck having another actor (or maybe another actor-rapper) play the part while he produced the movie (believe it or not, 50 only executive-produced the soundtrack and not the movie.) 50’s awful acting is only enhanced by the fact that good actors, like Howard, Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Duke, surround him (heck…even Jefferies, the kid who plays the young Marcus, out-acts his adult counterpart.) I’m also curious as to why they used Sheridan. The director may have been nominated six times in the Academy Awards, but he has mostly helmed tales about the Irish experience…not the gangsta life. He says that he has always been a rap fan (according to the production notes), but he just seems like an odd fit. I hate the phrase “you can’t polish a turd,” but it fits perfectly with Sheridan’s attempt to direct 50 Cent. Hanson had better luck directing the already charismatic Eminem, leading to a chemistry that worked.
50 Cent may have had success with albums, sneaker sales, books, and video games…but acting in movies is not his strong suit. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ won’t change my opinion that rappers tend to be the best actors, but it does prove that this theory isn’t universal.
Get 50 Cent's first two albums:
Get 50 Cent's Ingram Entertainment video game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, in two formats:
Buy these items at
SEE THIS MOVIE!
Catch this movie at the theater if you can...
Wait until it comes out on video...
Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...
Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!