Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005) / Drama-Action

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content, sexuality, and nudity
Running Time: 116 min.

Cast: Curtis Jackson, (aka 50 Cent), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joy Bryant, Omar Benson Miller, Tory Kittle, Terence Howard, Bill Duke, Ashley Walters, Marc John Jefferies, Viola Davis, Sullivan Walker, Serena Reeder
Director: Jim Sheridan
Screenplay: Terence Winter
Review published November 15, 2005

Get Rich or Die Tryin' is a straightforward gangster drama that utilizes biographical elements regarding 50 Cent's rise to the top of the rap game after changing his occupation from the thug life to spitting lyrics about his experiences to the mic.  Like most that have tread this same path, it's all a very idealized story, a bit too farfetched to believe entirely, although being a longtime hip hop aficionado myself, I still find the most difficult aspect to swallow is that someone with such a lackadaisical delivery and little charisma could be considered one of the premier rappers in the industry.  Of course, then I remember that talent doesn't seem to ever supersede marketing and catchy production when it comes to what the next hot thing is. 

50 Cent has a legion of fans that will no doubt take me to task about my criticism of his talent, and while I will concede that music is all a matter of personal taste, I doubt very few of these fans could convince me that his acting skills are worthy of praise.  The best thing I can say about it is that he doesn't embarrass himself, despite having to do things he rarely does in his videos - show a softer side.   Yes, at the core of this rather violent melodrama is a love story, simplistically presented, and perhaps the least convincing of this film's varied storylines.  It's never made clear just why such an articulate, graceful, and intelligent woman would remotely be attracted to a drug-dealing thug, outside of a catchy (and quite raunchy) little ditty called "Best Friend" that he wrote about her as a kid.    

I mean, what self-respecting woman wouldn't be swayed by this "love poem"?:

First we get the talkin', then we get the touchin'
If we get past the phone games we'll be f*ckin'
I kiss like the French before my tongue's in your ear
Do it like the dogs do it, girl, and pull on your hair
For me a different scenery just means a different position
In the tub or on the sink, I improvise, now listen,
In the chopper or on the jet, join the mile high club
I'm no fool, I know money can't buy me love
But I'm a different type of nigga that make sure that you know
Instead of a rose, there's a hundred dozen of those
See, I see somethin' special when I look in your eyes
With your legs way back I see this p**sy is mines

It doesn't take much intelligence to see that the impetus to make Get Rich or Die Tryin' is a direct result of the success that 8 Mile proved for fellow rapper, Eminem.  Like 8 Mile, a talented director was recruited, here in the form of Jim Sheridan, the man that directed such critically acclaimed films such as In America, In the Name of the Father, and My Left Foot.   No street cred whatsoever, but like 50 Cent in the world of Hollywood, Sheridan is in over his head, but doesn't embarrass himself outright.  It's purely a commercial venture for everyone involved, without artistic merit, so even Sheridan's staunchest of fans probably will overlook this film as his altogether.

Despite the fact that I dislike 50 Cent's music, and care little about his rise to fame, all in all, Get Rich or Die Tryin' isn't quite as awful as you might be expecting it to be.  It's very evident that the production team took this as a serious project from the get-go, and certainly Sheridan's work here never panders here to the star power of its leading man.  There are just as many instances of Marcus (the name of 50 Cent's character) getting his just desserts or looking foolish as there are those glamorizing his chosen profession and style of living.  There is a good supporting cast here, with an especially menacing turn by Akinnuoye-Agbaje (The Bourne Identity, Legionnaire) as the man with an eye to run the streets, Majestic.  If the film were more about Majestic and his motivation, this probably would have been a more interesting movie.

Get Rich or Die Tryin' will no doubt be eaten up by 50 Cent's fans, and given the fact that they are willing to buy into the whole gangster bravado he espouses in his albums, they probably won't have any trouble coming away pleased with his performance here.  His acting perfectly exemplifies his style on the mic - monotone droning about macho acts of self-aggrandizing thuggery.  No doubt there are enough fans to help 50 "get rich".  Those that despise 50 Cent will wish he had taken the title's alternate route.

 Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo