Directed by: Jim Sheridan
I’m going to argue in this review that ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’’ is a nine out of ten movie, and should be critically reappraised. The criticisms aimed at this film in 2005 suggested 50 Cent was copying former stablemate Eminem by starring in an autobiographical film based upon his early life, and that it was hardly a stretch for 50 Cent to essentially act as himself. But let’s not ignore the great Roger Ebert, a lone voice who rated this movie. I’m going to go beyond even Ebert’s critical opinion and shower the film with a whole heap of praise.
Yesterday was my second viewing of ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’’. My first impressions, if I recall correctly was that it was an alright film and nothing more. Second time around I was stunned. This film is brilliant. Whether this is to do with the direction of acclaimed auteur Jim Sheridan, or that 50 Cent was working with a host of talented actors including Terrence Howard, Bill Duke and Viola Davis, perhaps, but the itself story is marvellous, somehow combining a gangster narrative that rivals the rags to riches tales of ‘Scarface’ and ‘Goodfellas’, with a believable account of hip hop mixtape hype building that recalls the underdog story of Stallone’s ‘Rocky’.
The film stars 50 Cent and more rational folk would say – How is it possible that 50 could act? Judging him on his underwhelming musical contributions. Well 50 is a charming leading man. He shows a wide range, and brings authenticity to the role. This isn’t some Eton educated luvvie trying to play it rough. 50 Cent lived this life, and portrays the realness of the situation he overcome.
The film starts with a flashback to when 50 Cent, who plays a version of himself named Marcus Greer aka Young Caesar, is shot nine times. The scene is harrowing. The hooded shooter cowardly sneaks upon Greer, shoots him in the back and then hunts Greer down, shooting him several more times before finishing the job.
We then move to back further to Greer’s eventful childhood. After his crack dealing Mother is murdered, Greer lives with his Grandparents in a crowded home. The childhood struggle is touching, as a naïve Greer is exposed to sex through explicit lyrics and initially sees drug dealing as a way to buy nice trainers.
Marcus Greer becomes a man when he is taken under the wing by Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who I suppose, to try and draw a pop culture comparison, is close to Stringer Bell from ‘The Wire’, only a bit more psychotic. Majestic is the man under the man, but he has an eye on taking the throne from the current king. Majestic puts together a group of young and hungry worker bees, but Marcus, with entrepreneurial flair, out hustles all the other kids on the corner.
It isn’t until Marcus gets busted and spends some time in jail that he meets Bama (Terrence Howard). The jail scenes are actually spellbinding. Bama saves Marcus from a knife attack in the showers (an equally scary scene to the bloody bath scene in ‘Eastern Promises’) and the two fond a close bond. In solitary Marcus chooses rather than to kill himself (a razor blade is pushed through the cell door), to carve lyrics on the wall. As time goes on Marcus realises the power of hip hop and turns his back on the drug trade, infuriating Majestic. Bama becomes his manager and tries to guide Young Caeser to the top.
The film goes back to the start at halfway, and shows the aftermath of the shooting. Marcus fights for his life, and undergoes a gruelling rehabilitation process backed by his loyal wife Charlene (Joy Bryant) and his crew.
Sure, the last fifteen minutes of the film ain’t perfect, but ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin ’’ is a fine film, a leading light in the hip hop movie genre.