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GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN'

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Terrence Howard, Joy Bryant, Bill Duke, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Omar Benson Miller, Viola Davis
Director: Jim Sheridan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: March 28, 2006

“I’d rather die like a man than live like a coward.”

Film ***

By now, just about everyone on the planet is familiar with the near death incident of rap superstar Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. The fact that, prior to becoming a rap music icon, he was shot nine times and able to walk again is enough to make anyone listen to what he has to say. Just like his protégé, Eminem, 50 is getting the chance to let his story be told in the equally powerful Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

And just as Eminem was fortunate to have his story be told through the vision of a top flight filmmaker, Curtis Hanson, 50 was able to have no less than Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot) translate his biography for the screen. It may sound like an odd choice for Sheridan, but as it turns out he is a fan of rap music and respects it as an art form.

The film is indeed an unapologetic biography of 50’s life leading up to his breakthrough in rap music. Basically, what we the public knew of him was that before his music career, there was a life of crime. It was a profession that no doubt resulted in the near fatal shooting. Sheridan’s film opens up on a lot more as it shows us how he got to that point.

The film opens as 50’s character, Marcus, is about to pull off a heist with an associate named Bama (Terrence Howard). Following the robbery, Marcus is gunned down by a masked figure. His life leading up to this point is reflected as Marcus sees nothing but a gun aimed against his head.

We then see Marcus in his younger years under the care of his mother, a drug dealer. He grew up never knowing who his father was. His mother was murdered during a drug deal. Marcus wasn’t even in his preteen years by that point.

He is then taken in by his grandparents, but Marcus soon takes to the primary business of the streets; drug dealing. He sub comes to the profession simply because he is tempted by the quick cash to get whatever he wants whenever he wants it. Years down the road, he’s even able to buy himself a car.

But Marcus’ life is put on halt when he agrees to take the rap for a shooting and to serve a brief prison sentence, requested from his kingpin boss Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). It’s a move that ends up being the best decision Marcus makes because it gives him time to think about another area that he finds himself good at; rap music. That and his chance meeting with Bama, then a fellow inmate, plus the inspiration and love of his woman on the outside, Charlene (Joy Bryant), help Marcus make a crucial decision once released from jail.

He boldly tells Majestic he’s out of the game and that he intends to pursue a music career. Bama assigns himself as his manager. Although Marcus has got his songs and rhymes down and set to go, he and Bama agree that they need some cash to ensure the music gets completed, thus leading to the botched robbery at the film’s opening and Marcus’ bullet-ridden state.

Nine bullets entered his body, including his lower jaw. There’s no question that a miracle saved Marcus. Through slow rehabilitation, including having his jaw wired shut, he plans to get back on his feet and continue the career he plans to make happen, even as Majestic becoming a threatening force, not happy at all with the fact that he’s shut him out for good, and that he’s alive.

Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is the second great film about rap music to come out in 2005. The first, of course, was Hustle and Flow, which is at this point THE best rap music film to date. But the two films are quite different; as 50 Cent’s story is modeled more after crime-oriented films like Scarface and New Jack City. Where as Hustle was about a character trying to escape his lifestyle to become a rapper, this film is about a person who held onto his former profession as long as he could until the time was right to drop it and go forth with something more positive, and more lucrative.

And this may be the first ever movie to illustrate how thin the line between gangsta rap music and the actual criminal lifestyle really is. I’m sure that past incidents regarding Suge Knight and Death Row Records are quite similar to events in this film. Whichever the case, Jim Sheridan and 50 Cent have made a film that delivers the impact it set out to make.

Video ***1/2

Paramount’s anamorphic transfer is a most solid one. Good level of detail and colors are very well used. The gritty New York City setting looks mighty grittier than ever. Slight softness on a couple of occasions, but not distracting on any level. Good all around looking presentation.

Audio ****

Hip hop music is an important element in Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and it is included in just about every scene in the movie. The 5.1 mix takes advantage of this and manages to produce a piece of audio that is mighty and powerful. There are other areas, too, like dialogue delivery, set pieces that produce good surround sound moments, and intense scenes of violence that register terrifically with the speakers. A fantastic sounding disc, indeed.

Features **

There is essentially one big feature on this disc, but it happens to be a well made documentary titled “The Portrait of an Artist: The Making of Get Rich or Die Tryin”, that runs nearly a half hour and covers a lot of ground, particularly on how Jim Sheridan and 50 Cent were brought together in the first place. Also included is a Theatrical Trailer as well as a few bonus previews.

Summary:

Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is a striking portrait of the most iconic rap music artists to emerge since Tupac Shakur. Credit 50 Cent and director Jim Sheridan for collaborating to make an uncompromising and take-no-prisoners film that’s as hard edged as they come.

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