Get Rich Or Die Tryin'

Get Rich Or Die Tryin'

***

Reviewed by: Tim Bryant

Get Rich Or Die Tryin' documents the life story of the current hardcore New York rapper-du-jour Curtis "50 Cent "Jackson. Following in the footsteps of Eminem's 8 Mile, Irish director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, The Field) constructs his film around the many life trials and eventual rise to fame and fortune of Fiddy, his hip-hop protagonist. Unlike 8 Mile, though, this is a less nuanced and more obviously stylised piece.

The film starts with an arresting, if cheaply gratuitous, robbery. which leaves Fiddy shot in the face. This sends us back to the Eighties and the high-gloss world of Run DMC, shiny black inner city depravity and the life of Katrina, Fiddy's coke dealing, head-turning, ghetto momma. The look and feel of this part of the film is certainly stylish, often inappropriately so.

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The narrative lurches incompetently from one childhood memory to another. The occasional deft visual touch combined with the knowledge of the actual authenticity of some of the material just about holds your attention. From its opening shot of a bass vibrating wing mirror reflecting New York taxis shimmering in the night, the film has many moments of visual artistry.

However, the script and acting are, at times, very weak. Fiddy suddenly emerges into adulthood and the life of a drug dealer. While the portrayal of this street life can be exhilarating, especially when hip-hop is given the reins of the backing music, there is a serious lack of authenticity. In its place there is sentimentality and the derivative high gloss feel of a crime flick.

The battles with other drug gangs are highly derivative of New Jack City and don t feel in the least bit real. As a result of the poor script and his limited range in front of the camera, 50 Cent manages to appear unbelievable, while playing himself.

Apart from his ambition, you don't know much about him. His street jive is portrayed as something materialistic and cool. The life and times of a gangster is slowly played out against the notion that underneath this veneer of violence a nice guy is struggling to get out.

There are enjoyable rites of passage, such as buying a Mercedes with cash. But there are also very poor ones, like the cliched shooting of his best friend, or the crass romance with a childhood sweetheart. At times, the film seems to lack any depth, or narrative tension whatsoever.

Things pick up when he is incarcerated and the sentimental gangster fairytale element is brought to an end. There is a memorable stabbing in the prison shower, when Fiddy is saved by his manager-to-be, the loquacious Bama (excellently played by Terrence Howard). In solitary, he carves lyrics onto a wall with a razor blade that had been intended for his suicide.

In these scenes, the film has a reality that it lacked earlier. This is sustained through his move into the recording studio and subsequent shooting after the bungled robbery from the beginning. One is affected by his recovery from receiving nine bullets and his move out of drugs and into music. His "voice has more pain in it" after this, as does the film.

Get Rich Or Die Tryin' reflects some of the problems and strengths of 50 Cent's music in its combination of pop sensibility and searing street reality. Mostly, however, it comes across as a shallow, forgettable, rose-tinted gangster fairly tale that is partially redeemed by being based on a true story and by the coming of age scene towards the end.

Reviewed on: 15 Apr 2006
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Get Rich Or Die Tryin' packshot
Real life gangster rap fairy tale, with 50 Cent.
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