It would be erroneous to dismiss Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, assuming the rapper thinks of his foray into acting as a lark. The Mario Van Peebles-directed, Chinua Achebe-spurned All Things Fall Apart is a gutpunch in the face of those assumptions, a gloomy drama that provides Jackson with a largely able cast and a leading role pregnant with drama (nevermind the much ballyhooed weight loss). Unfortunately, the film is a wild miscalculation of both tone and performances, a mess of tired cliches and unintentional humor. Jackson tries hard, genuinely digging in his heels and willing this acting thing to work, but he is simply not a charismatic actor, and what we are left with is an able hip hop star standing with his mouth slightly agape while the supporting cast spews tears all over the scenery with abandon.
All Things gets off to a running start, despite a major stumbling plot that sees Jackson portray college-aged start athlete Deon. The actor was never what you'd call youthful-looking and as dreadlocked superstar Deon, Jackson seems comfortable playing the part of the man everybody loves and all the girls want, but looks noticeably older. It's hard to shake the feeling that you are watching a grown man (Jackson is 36) pretend to be over a decade younger. Then again, that's not an entirely fair criticism - Tom Hanks pulled it off in Big, but Hanks is an actor of a different caliber than Jackson.
The opening half hour is strong and an easy watch, as Jackson dominates on the field and off, generally being amicable and confident while his studious brother Sean (Cedric Sanders, given scraps to play with) relegates himself to the books and hardly feeds off of his brother's popularity. Van Peebles is ahrdly a novice director and despite some minor budgetary constraints, the film moves at a comfortable pace and establishes Deon and Sean's home life, sketching out cliched tough mother Bee (Lynn Whitfield) and her career-oriented boyfriend Eric (Van Peebles). Eric is a preacher of the Deon temple, fully invested in living out his own failed dreams of being an NLF player. That is, until Deon faints and Ray Liotta shows up with some bad news.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Liotta's role consists of two major appearances where he delivers bad news to advance the plot. It's a lazy device and we learn that (SPOILERS!) Deon has a cancerous tumor that will prevent him from playing again, All Things Fall Apart goes downhill fast. The meat and potatoes of the film is also its weakest portion. It should work in theory, the drama of watching the treatment take a toll on Deon's family as he struggles to accept his sudden and undeserved downfall. Yet Van Peebels oddly cuts right to the tail end of it all, with Jackson looking horrifically gaunt and the camera taking it all in a bit more than it should. Having seen only New Jack City, this writer can't claim to fully recognize Van Peebles' style but he does not strike one as a director in love with subtle gestures.
All Things Fall Apart proceeds to lay it on thick, ratcheting up the histrionics as everyone feels the effects of Deon's struggle. The latter part of the film concerns Deon's attempts to pick himself up and begin a life without prospects, a staggering and confusing time in this young man's life. Unfortunately, Deon's saving grace proves to be a job he is almost supernaturally good at and whatever lessons are learned are trotted out as Deon reclaims his life. But then...
We'll spare you the final, asinine twist that pretty much puts a gun to the film's head and forces it to a sudden, overly dramatic end. Suffice to say there's little here worth watching for, and what there is, you've seen before. Perhaps it's not fair to judge a film by calling it redundant, but boy does All Things Fall Apart seem to check off points as it goes, sucking all the energy out of a film that at least could have been an infrequently moving drama.
Video and Sound:
Having received a pre-release screener disk of All Things Fall Apart, we cannot currently comment on the video/audio. This review will be updated should a release copy be made available to us.
Extras were not included on this preview disk.
Hardly bolstered by Jackson's performance, All Things Fall Apart offers up plenty of opportunities for acidic puns on the title. Skip It
The best of the five boroughs is now represented. Brooklyn in the house! I'm a hardworking film writer, blogger, boyfriend and hopeful Corgi owner. Find me on Twitter @markzhur and on Tumblr at Our Elaborate Plans...