Get Rich Or Die Tryin' Review

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After his coke-dealing mother is shot dead, young Marcus (Jackson) inherits the family business, building a rep as a crack kingpin while harbouring dreams of being a famous rapper…


Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, the 2003 debut album by Eminem protégé 50 Cent, was a compelling if one-dimensional throwback to the glory days of gangsta rap. As a rapper, ‘Fiddy’ emerged as a maestro of the mumble rumble, but his current position as the world’s most successful recording artist is not based on his skills. It is squarely built on a backstory that provided him with the currency rap fans treasure above all others — authenticity.Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson’s debut movie, is also erected on that infamous CV: orphan gets rich dealing crack, is shot nine times but recovers to tell the world all about it — in song! Perversely, though, usually admirable Irish director Jim Sheridan shows no interest in the musical gifts of his leading man, here playing Marcus.

In 8 Mile, Eminem’s own roman-à-clef, rap novices couldn’t fail to appreciate his astonishing verbal dexterity, but nowhere in Get Rich does Marcus do ‘battle’ against another rapper; he plays no gigs. In fact, he barely steps behind the mic. Sheridan’s omission proves to be a fatal miscalculation. The only possible way that Marcus/Jackson’s journey could prove worthwhile — that all the crack addicts and wasted lives could count for something — would be if the entire audience buys into the idea that the boon bestowed upon the world is somehow worth it. (Perhaps Marcus, unlike Fiddy, could use rap to preach against his former way of life.) But Get Rich is not concerned with redemption. Post-shooting there is rehabilitation, via a ridiculous, Rocky-inspired training sequence, but no real redemption. No music, no redemption… What are we left with?

We are left with the story of Marcus’ rise to power: his sexual prowess, his jail-time, his bullet-proof chest — all the components of that fabled authenticity. And yet, on screen the story doesn’t feel remotely authentic. It’s a cliché that every rapper’s favourite movie is Brian De Palma’s Scarface, but here Jackson lives out that fantasy: Marcus is a poor man’s Tony Montana, and the inert Jackson a piss-poor Pacino. In fact, if you’ve ever wondered what Scarface would be like if only it had less subtlety, a more upbeat ending and Mr. Potato Head cast as the charismatic anti-hero, then this could be your lucky day...

The fact that a couple of US screenings were marred by shootings will be enough to inspire a Daily Mail campaign — but don’t let the moral turpitude put you off; it’s bad enough to ban on purely artistic grounds.