Judge Patrick Naugle waits expectantly for It's Hard to Make the Free Throw, the inspiring story of how Shaquille O'Neal went from struggling multi-million-dollar basketball star living in the street—to world-famous rap musician.
If you think you know the story…you don't know the man.
Best selling music sensation Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson is Marcus, a man who has only known life on the street until music intervenes in his life. Marcus's turbulent life begins with the vacancy of a father and a mother addicted to drugs who works street corners. When Marcus's mother is mysteriously killed, Marcus ends up at his grandparent's house (Viola Davis and Sullivan Walker). Marcus's grandparents are loving and kind, yet it's not enough to keep Marcus from the lure of becoming a gangster. Marcus hooks up with a man named Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, TV's Lost) who teaches him the rules of the street and how to make and sell illegal drugs. As Marcus wades through a life filled with violence, anger and guns, he discovers in the most unlikely of places the power of music that breaks open his life-long dream to become a successful rapper.
Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson is one of the biggest rap stars on the planet. And like seemingly dozens of rappers before him, he must have felt as if his life wouldn't be complete until he was up on the big screen in a faux version of his life's story. Much like Eminem's 8 Mile (or, to a lesser extent, Vanilla Ice's , Cool As Ice), Get Rich or Die Tryin' follows 50 Cent through a fictional, self-indulgent version of his life and times. The movie is well constructed and acted, but it often feels like a cliché of street violence, gangs, rappers, and turf wars.
Get Rich or Die Tryin' is directed by Jim Sheridan, an odd choice since he's an elderly Irishman with a penchant for art house films like My Left Foot and recent Oscar nominee In America. I can only surmise that Sheridan was drawn to the material of a man's search from his father and meaning in life, something that has found its way into many of the director's previous outings. Though Sheridan has done a fine job behind the camera, it isn't enough to distinguish Get Rich or Die Tryin' from the dozens of other movies in the gangster/rapper genre.
The biggest question surrounding Get Rich or Die Tryin' is: can 50 Cent act? I guess he can, if by act you mean play a parallel version of himself on film. The character of Marcus isn't far removed from 50 Cent the rapper; Marcus's story is almost identical to 50 Cent's, which means 50 only has to act like himself on film. He does a mediocre job with the role; this performance clearly did not garner the rapper any Oscars this past season. Most of Get Rich or Die Tryin' features better performances by better actors (like Terrance Howard as Marcus's rap manager), which often leave 50 in the dust. One of the main problems for me is that 50 Cent's Marcus wasn't someone I could root for because he never wanted out drugs and violence; he just wanted rap success as well. Well, that and the fact that in most scenes 50 Cent has all the charisma of the two-year-old dryer lint.
I find these rapper "vanity" projects interesting—it often feels as if the musician in question is stuck inside of some limbo where they don't want to play themselves (so they play a fictional version), but they don't want to stray too far from their persona in fear of frightening away their legions of fans. I've sat through Get Rich or Die Tryin', as well as 8 Mile, and in their wake a new kind of genre is emerging: the "rapumentary," if you will. It's as if the people around these stars are whispering in their ears, "everyone wants to know how you went from impoverished bum to millionaire rapper!" I have two words for these people: not everyone. This particular genre is already becoming clichéd with its rags-to-riches tales becoming obvious and overdone. Get Rich or Die Tryin' offers nothing extensively new to the ideas behind the visuals, and that makes the film a hollow bullet casing without any firepower to back it up.
Get Rich or Die Tryin' is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Paramount has made sure that this letterboxed version of the film looks fantastic. Overall I spotted nothing in the way of defects or imperfections—the colors and crisp and bright and the black levels are solid and dark. Fans of the film will be happy with the way this transfer looks. Also available is a separate full frame version of the film, though it's not recommended.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in both English and French. Anyone with a home theater system will be happy with this audio mix—the gunshots and profanity laced rap songs are pumped loud and clear through all six speakers. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles, as well as a flaccid Dolby 2.0 mix in English.
There are surprisingly few extra features on this DVD release. All fans get is a rather slim featurette titled "A Portrait of the Artist: The Making of Get Rich or Die Tryin'." This featurette includes the usual sound bites and interview segments with 50 Cent and director Jim Sheridan, but also some touching moments as when 50 Cent visits Sheridan's old Irish neighborhood. Also included are some bonus theatrical trailers for five other Paramount releases.
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• "A Portrait of the Artist: The Making of Get Rich or Die Tryin'" Featurette
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