Get Rich or Die Tryin' reminds me of the apocryphal Chinese curse 'may you live in interesting times'. The most interesting thing that has happened to Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson is that he has been shot nine times; accordingly, not only the character he plays, Marcus 'Young Caesar' Greer, but also a lot of other people get shot in this movie. Most of them survive, though, so even this turns out to be not so special after all. As for the second most interesting experience in Fifty’s life, this actually happened to someone else: 8 Mile, the vastly superior film starring Eminem and released three years prior. The problem is that 8 Mile is a story about humility, while GRoDT is about arrogance; the title alone exudes hubris, and the fact that it shares its title with a 50 Cent album makes us think that the inflated ego is not limited to the character, but it affects the star as well. Unlike Em, who didn't play himself but played someone very much like him in particular and a real human being in general, Marcus Greer is not so much a fictionalized version of Jackson as 50 Cent's idea of 50 Cent. Young Caesar is the larger-than-life figure that Curtis Jackson desperately wants to be, to the point that a modest 50 cents is not enough anymore; only a nickname that references arguably the most brilliant political and military mind history will suffice. This is unintentionally ironic because the protagonist is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen; for example, little Marcus's (Marc John Jefferies) mother is murdered, and the suspect is a "Rick James-looking motherfucker" (Leon, criminally underutilized), so Marcus keeps a photo of the Super Freak ever near him, because otherwise he would forget what her mother's alleged killer looks like? This is supposed to be a drama, a genre that the filmmaker, having directed My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, should know very well; on the other hand, the director also wrote those films, so the blame for this inexplicable faux pas falls squarely on the scriptwriter. The hero's Dickensian childhood was a cliché that 8 Mile could afford to skip because the dysfunctional interaction between Em and Kim Basinger told us everything we needed to know about it without the need for flashbacks narrated in Fifty’s uninflected monotone. Then again, the soundtrack includes a song called “Window Shopper,” which means a mandatory shot of little Marcus staring forlornly through a window at the sneakers he can't afford, while a couple of extras taunt him. The director surrounds Jackson with strong supporting cast (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Terrence Howard, the monolithic Bill Duke), but this is a double-edged sword; either they elevate Fifty to their level, or they completely overshadow him until he disappears, which is exactly what happens here. Now, if Jackson were any smarter or less selfish, he would have let Howard, still fresh from a similar role in Hustle & Flow, play the lead, instead of saddling him with the role of his trusty sidekick Bama. Nevertheless, Howard steals every scene he’s in (and has the best lines of dialogue; e.g., "Bama. Are you from Alabama?" "No, North Carolina." "Why do they call you Bama?” “I didn't want people to call me Lina”), including the best of them all: a revealing scuffle in a jail shower that preceded the Turkish bath fight in Eastern Promises by two years. The big difference is that Hustle &Flow is about a pimp who aspires to become a musician, while GRoDT is about a gangbanger who gets distracted too easily: “I had my own space and I could focus on my dream of being a rapper… After three hours, I quit my career as a rapper and went back to selling coke.” In other words, why make an effort when one is such a prodigy that, when imprisoned, the other inmates and even the guards know the lyrics to Young Caesar’s future chart-topping hits?
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