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Get Rich or Die Tryin'

Paramount // R // March 28, 2006
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Phil Bacharach | posted March 28, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
Get Rich or Die Tryin' wants desperately to be another 8 Mile, the surprisingly gripping 2002 film that starred Eminem and wrung inspiration from his real-life backstory.

By all rights, Get Rich should have left 8 Mile in its dust. Featuring the gangsta-turned-rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, the newer film has as its muse a recording artist who did more than just rap the rap, an ex-crack dealer who finally wised up after nearly dying from nine bullet wounds. For additional heft, the movie is directed by the gifted Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan, whose works include My Left Foot and In America. How could it go wrong?

And yet Get Rich or Die Tryin' just sort of sputters along, never realizing its potential for resonance. Despite its sleek packaging and intermittent volleys of gunfire, the picture is nothing you haven't seen before in scores of better B-movie crime dramas.

50 Cent stars as Marcus, a quasi-fictitious version of himself. He is 12 years old when his dope-dealing mother is murdered and set on fire, a turn of events that sends him to live with his grandparents and eight other children. Not able to adjust to the bustling household, the teenaged Marcus drifts into the family business, hawking cocaine on street corners.

Crack elevates the lucrativeness of his trade, leading him to head his own crew and become involved with a vicious drug kingpin known as Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Along the way there is the obligatory romance with Marcus' childhood sweetheart, Charlene (Joy Bryant); the birth of their son and a few other supposedly pivotal moments that fail to register.

Director Sheridan infuses the proceedings with some nice visual touches - particularly a prison attack in which Marcus is saved by a fellow inmate, Bama (the always excellent Terrence Howard) - but the story's punctuation of violence oddly arrives without any emotional pull. "Men have their emotions, you bury yours," Charlene tells Marcus, but she could just as well be describing the movie. Such detachment is especially disappointing after a supercharged opening in which our antihero leads a stickup robbery and shortly thereafter is riddled with bullets in front of his grandparents' home.

It doesn't help that even 50 Cent seems bored by what's happening onscreen. The rapper has an undeniable onscreen presence, but his performance is dull. A feeble voiceover narration doesn't wash away the nagging feeling that this is one aimless film.

The DVD

Video:
Presented in 2:35:1 widescreen, Get Rich or Die Tryin' is a sharp and crisp transfer, although a small amount of dirt is briefly visible in at least two scenes. For the most part, however, the picture image faithfully conveys the film's visual scheme. Unfortunately, that scheme isn't always aesthetically pleasing, as several nighttime sequences are enveloped in sickly green hues.

Audio:
As befits a biopic about a musician, the audio quality is first-rate. The 5.1 Dolby Surround and 2.0 Dolby Surround make good use of sound separation, lending particular impact to the bullets that an assassin fires into Marcus as he lies dazed on the street. The audio track is also available in French, although Spanish subtitles are also an option.

Extras:
A 29-minute featurette, A Portrait of an Artist: The Making of Get Rich or Die Tryin', is actually more interesting than the film itself. In interviews and candid behind-the-scenes footage, Sheridan explains that he was drawn to the story because he saw its connection to the experience of many Irish families.

There is a theatrical trailer for Get Rich or Die Tryin', as well as trailers for the following: Aeon Flux, Last Holiday, Bad Boys of Comedy, Four Brothers, Hustle & Flow and Wild'n Out.

Final Thoughts:
It's difficult to identify the exact point that this semi-biopic goes off the rails, but Get Rich or Die Tryin' doesn't seem to get anywhere. An antihero doesn't have to be likeable, but he should at least be interesting. The most you can say about Marcus is, um, he drives a cool car.

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