Director: Jim Sheridan
Writers: Terence Winter
After watching the DTV-shitfest that was Gun, I was intrigued to see what Curtis Jackson’s high-profile debut movie was like. Hell, it was written by the guy who later wrote Boardwalk Empire and Wolf Of Wall Street and directed by the guy who made My Left Foot! Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ is supposedly based on 50 Cent’s own life experiences, which means this film should be a gritty rags-to-riches story. So how was it?
Curtis Jackson plays Marcus, a kid from the Bronx who has mother issues and who lives the lifestyle of a street thug. The brutal murder of his mother has made him introverted and living with his grandparents doesn’t go without problems. Local kingpin Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) takes Marcus under his wing and Marcus soon becomes his best dealer. Packing heat and carrying an attitude Marcus lives the life of a street hustla (I know my lingo) and dreams of one day buying a car, like grown ups do.
His criminal ways prove to be something that he is particularly good at, but Marcus still turns to his tape recorder and he spouts street poetry, secretly dreaming to be a rapper. He meets a love of his life and everything goes smoothly until he is arrested and sentenced in prison. While there, he meets Bama (Terrence Howard) who recognizes Marcus’ rapping potential and offers to be his manager when they both get out of jail.
After the announcement of pregnancy by his girlfriend, Marcus decides he wants out of the life of crime, but his gang boss Majestic is not happy to let him go. And you’re wondering that you’ve seen this all before, right? Yes, this story is VERY clichéd and it includes all the elements you’ve come to know by watching these Boyz n’ The Hood type films, like the constant worry for “getting the best sneakers for my boy!”, or “the po-po’s out to get me!”. Also, Colombians are assholes, it seems. The story offers very few new elements and even sometimes almost feels like a Lifetime movie of the week.
Terence Winter is clearly burdened for writing Curtis Jackson’s dictation. Sure, Marcus is a tough gangsta and drug-dealing criminal, but he is also a loving man for his woman. Not once is another woman present in Marcus’ life, except his dead mama. An odd choice, considering that bitches are the usual building blocks for these type of films. 50 Cent’s on-screen romance feels like it came straight out of the Disney Channel. Not once does Marcus and his woman fight, or even argue. Well except that one time the woman complains when he is sitting home not doing any crime. A perfect gangsta wife, right?
But Terence Winter can write good stuff, and sometimes his writing shows some bright moments. Everytime the movie concentrates on the technicalities of drug dealing, the movie feels better than it is. And the dialogue isn’t terrible, except when it really is (the dialogue on the opening robbery is god-awful). I have no idea what attracted the Irish film maker Jim Sheridan to this project, but he does what he can. The pacing a bit sluggish, but the scenes are shot competently. Sheridan is good, but he can’t replicate what Curtis Hansen did with Eminem’s far superior 8 Miles. And that film also had a diamond leading performance by Eminem. Which leads me to…
Curtis Jackson is not a good actor. His line delivery is lazy and monotone. Nothing happens behind the actor’s eyes, which makes investing in the guy hard. It’s his story, but he is the only actor who seems actually not to give a damn. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (or Adebisi for us, who cannot pronounce the guy’s whole name) gives the films strongest performance as Majestic. He is terrifying, charismatic and sensitive. Just look how he uses his eyes. His character is always working stuff out, thinking and finding an angle. His performance is the saving grace in this film.
So, the film is not great. It has some redeeming elements, but it seems like a lazy rip off of far better films with similar concepts. Watch 8 Miles, Boyz N’ The Hood or Clockers instead. Okay, are we done with 50 Cents here?
Best scene: Naked man-fight in the prison shower. All those swinging dicks around should keep the ladies happy.
Most memorable bit: That hilarious recording studio massacre while a whiny rapper named Dangerous is in the booth recording his lines. The use of his POV is brilliant.