Published Nov 01, 2005Walking into a showing of 50 Cent's silver screen debut is very much a daunting experience. The extreme security measures that far exceed the usual "no camera phones or recording devices" restrictions (just shy of a full cavity search, I tell you) consist of full bag checks, body pat downs and a metal detector to prevent, what, guns, knives and your average homemade shiv? Yikes.
Though it's meant to make you feel secure, instead it creates a state of panic, recalling the violent screenings back when Boyz n the Hood opened in 1991. Is that what the studios are expecting? It's no secret that Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson has been a target and instigator of violence in his relatively short career, but this loosely based biopic of the rapper isn't actually the shoot 'em gangsta film most people might expect. Yes, there are guns, drugs and banging (in both meanings of the word), but like with 8 Mile, the point of the film is to try and tell a story with some humanism at the forefront.
A respected and established director like Sheridan (In the Name of the Father, My Left Foot) is a smart choice by the Interscope executives, which parallels their choice in Curtis Hanson to tell Eminem's story. Unfortunately, Sheridan's not responsible for the film's failure - that's the subject himself. 50 Cent may be a multi-million selling rap star but in front of the camera he just doesn't pull off a convincing role as, well, pretty much himself, as we're led to believe.
Fi'ty plays Marcus, a street tough thug who's lived a tough life on the streets of New York City. Losing his mom to drug violence as an adolescent, he quickly joins the game and doesn't break free until an eye-opening stint in jail, which provides a rather slapstick moment with a soap, shower fight scene. Once clean, Marcus turns to hip-hop and his dream to become a superstar, however, a wrong move finds him taking those infamous nine bullets we've all heard so much about. In order to break free of those who try and bring him down, Marcus must keep it real and face the music in the end and prove himself.
It's not difficult to see what's coming in Get Rich. The story approaches inner-city violence, centred on accurately portraying gang and drug warfare (this white suburban reviewer supposes), but it tends to beat down the emotional core that so desperately wants to bare itself. It's almost plain to see Sheridan's vision versus 50's: one man's emotionally vivid storytelling against another's bleak, violent lifestyle.
In the end, the actor surpasses the director, for Get Rich falls victim to the story most fans of the rap superstar will want to see. Thankfully, it's not full of as much bravado as you'd expect (50 manages to pull off moments of modest behaviour), which occasionally tones down the seriousness when need be. Family, friendship and trust are all stressed as important, but everything seems to pale in comparison to Marcus's desire to thrive in his rap environment and come out on top, which no doubt weakens the latter half of the film.
Unfortunately for Curtis Jackson, this doesn't look like the start of another shining career, as he just doesn't have the magnetism that Marshall Mathers had three years ago. In fact, co-star Terrence Howard, who proves yet again why he deserves more starring roles, upstages him with a rather small supporting role. As a vehicle to tell the rapper's tale, it succeeds enough to satisfy the 50 Cent fan, but for anyone looking for a nice parallel to Hanson's account of Eminem's life, or another quality film by Sheridan, this will prove to be disappointing. (Interscope/Paramount)