Movie Review: “Get Rich or Die Trying”


By Samantha Ofole-Prince
     It’s becoming the norm for rappers to make a few hit tracks, then jump on the movie band wagon only to release a movie, which remotely portrays their life. DMX did it in “Belly” and Nelly in “Snipes,” but what sets 50 Cents new flick apart is its grim, gritty and candid portrayal of the dark and dangerous underbelly.
     ”Don’t show no love — love will get you killed” is the motto for this racy flick, which is loosely based on 50 Cent’s life. “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” opens with Marcus (played by 50) and his crew robbing a Columbian check cashing joint. Dark, stark and intense, the scene moves quickly when things go wrong – guns blazing and rapid quick fire action. Fast forward to a few minutes later, Marcus is robbed and shot 9 times outside his grandmother’s house as he returns home. As he lays there dying, we are shown flashbacks of his life and thus comes the full cycle narration of his childhood to adulthood and how he got shot in the first place. The story then picks up again from the shooting to his meteoric rise to a successful rapper.
     This movie is effective and takes many elements from the rap star’s real life: losing his mother at age12 to a violent crime, and being raised by his grandparents in a poor and seedy part of New York to selling drugs on street corners, whilst nursing dreams of becoming a rapper. It pays homage to the 80’s, showcasing music from Chaka Khan and Rick James. The supporting cast is brilliant across the board and it’s refreshing to see Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, best known as Adabisi from HBO’s “Oz” back on the big screen as Majestic, the paternal figure who introduces Marcus to selling crack. Watching this delightful actor, one would be inclined to think he was re-visiting the “Oz” set as he brings that similar icy chill to his character. Terence Howard drops in an hour into the flick as the unbalanced psycho, Bama, the guy who saves 50’s life in jail, and prefers to shoot first then ask question later – his personal motto. A bond is established between the two and he later becomes Marcus’ music manager once on the outside. Bryant plays 50’s love interest, a former childhood flame who later returns to the neighborhood as a dance teacher, and Bill Duke is great as the drug kingpin who runs the show until he’s set up as a fall guy. However, it’s the talented Marc John Jefferies who plays a younger Marcus that steals the scenes with his incredible likeness to 50 cent and a remarkable onscreen charisma. On the downside, 50’s acting skills leave little to be desired. He appears extremely wooden onset with bland facial expressions which rarely change, and although he is acting a part which is all too familiar to him, he lacks presence and screen appeal. Still, he can be forgiven for his dismal onscreen debut for he can only get better with time. In addition, he comes across as a likable drug dealer – a saintly sympathetic gangster who refuses to kill anyone, preferring instead to paralyze his opponents — a far cry and huge contradiction to the lifestyle he publicized. 
   On the surface, this is nothing more than another methodical portrayal of hustlers and gangsters mired by violence in an area where crime seems the only way out, but it is effective, fast-paced, graphic and intense, and above all, very well made. It offers the usual social messages that “crime doesn’t pay” and delivers the harsh reality of life for many young black males.