- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Will “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” the movie debut of rapper 50 Cent, garner the same critical acclaim that “8 Mile” generated for Eminem —or founder like “Cool As Ice,” the forgettable first film for ‘90s rap star Vanilla Ice?

Fortunately for Fitty, “Get Rich” is a far cry from 1991’s “Cool As Ice,” a horrific film that derailed the film career of the bumbling Ice. On the other hand, it’s no “8 Mile,” Eminem’s 2002 screen debut, which briefly generated faint Oscar buzz for the Motor City motormouth. (He did, however, win the Oscar for best original song for “Lose Yourself”).

Fitty, no doubt, is gunning for similar results when his film — based on his 2003 multiplatinum CD of the same name — hits theaters today. With the novelty of his being the current “it thing” slowly waning, he’s hoping to cash in and solidify his place in the entertainment industry, much as Eminem(who signed 50 to his Shady/Aftermath record label) did with “8 Mile.”

In “Get Rich,” 50’s character, Marcus, is a sensitive boy from Queens, N.Y., who turns to the streets after his drug-dealing mother is murdered. Delving headfirst into the narcotics trade, he violently claws his way to the top of the seedy drug underworld but longs to end his felonious ways and pursue a music career.

Sound familiar?

Fair or not, it’s virtually impossible not to compare “Get Rich” with “8 Mile.” Like Eminem’s “8 Mile,” 50’s film is loosely biographical, chronicling his character’s road from streetwise thug to hip-hop stardom. It even uses a few of the same actors, notably Omar Benson Miller, “8 Mile’s” portly Sol George, cast here as Marcus’ obedient minion, Keryl.

However, “Mile” largely worked because of its underdog theme. Eminem’s Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr. channeled his anger and frustration over his social status through his music. In “Get Rich,” it’s hard to get behind Marcus in the same way because little time is devoted to him chasing his dream of becoming a successful rapper.

Instead, we see him enjoying the pleasures of his ill-gotten gains — such as fulfilling a lifelong desire to own a Mercedes-Benz — and socking away piles of his drug-dealing cash while continuing to live in squalor.

Overall, “Get Rich” can’t decide whether its a wannabe mafia flick or a rags-to-riches tale about Marcus’ pursuit of fame. The film is disjointed, poorly paced and filled with half-baked story lines — a disappointment when you consider it was directed by Jim Sheridan, an Oscar nominee for 1989’s “My Left Foot” and 2002’s “In America.”

Most grating is 50’s tepid acting. He definitely wants to be taken seriously, as evidenced by his incorporation of his birth name with his celebrity moniker. (He’s billed in the credits as Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.) However, his mush-mouth delivery is an insurmountable distraction when coupled with a scattershot plot.

Aside from a poignant, tear-jerking moment with his girlfriend, Charlene (Joy Bryant of “Antwone Fisher” ), who also is his baby’s mama, 50’s emotional range is nearly nonexistent. His steely, deadpan demeanor — which serves him well in his day job — is a hindrance onscreen.

Fifty’s vapid performance is even more glaring when he shares screen time with Terrence Dashon Howard as Bama, a con who befriends Marcus in prison and eventually becomes his manager.

Mr. Howard (an accomplished actor whose recent stellar body of work includes “Ray,” “Crash” and a star turn in “Hustle & Flow”) has a minor role but manages to steal nearly every scene he’s in, particularly the one involving a darkly humorous armed robbery. His presence further underscores that 50 has a long way to go to hone his acting chops.

On the plus side, die-hard 50 Cent fans will appreciate the film’s thinly veiled shot at fellow rapper and nemesis Ja Rule, who’s lampooned as the character Dangerous (Michael Miller), a tough-talking but cowardly rival rapper from Marcus’ neighborhood.

Not surprisingly, “Get Rich” also includes 50’s infamous brush with death, a nine-gunshot ambush that marked the turning point in his then-floundering music career. That pivotal moment, 50’s real life epiphany, should have served as the film’s key scene, but it appears too close to the end and is nearly inconsequential.

With such a captivating life story, it’s surprising 50 isn’t able to tap into his reserve of emotions and draw out a better performance, especially given his reputation as a relentless perfectionist in the recording studio. Although 50’s legion of fans will turn out in droves for “Get Rich,” his lukewarm turn and the film’s anticlimactic ending will leave most others unsatisfied.

*1/2

TITLE: “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”

RATING:(Strong violence, pervasive language, drug content, sexuality and nudity)

CREDITS: Directed by Jim Sheridan. Written by Terence Winter and loosely based on 50 Cent’s autobiography.

RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes

WEB SITE: www.getrichordietryinmovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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