Get Rich or Die Tryin'

Bomb Rating: 

Though its opening shots thrum with possibility, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" quickly devolves into a textbook example of a "rapper overcomes adversity through the power of rap" cinematic vanity project that I guess we can now expect to see in theaters about every two years after the release of "8 Mile." That Eminem's production company is involved in this movie indicates he knows the power of a franchise when he sees one.

In this case, the rapper is Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (or "Fiddy" to those in the know), who plays Marcus, a streetwise kid who starts his own franchise - selling drugs on the streets - when his father's abdication and mother's death render him yet another member of a generation effectively raised by grandparents. At this point, however, Marcus learns one of the little-known facts about being an inner-city drug dealer, which is that it pays about as well as working at Wal-Mart, albeit with better health benefits.

Marcus quickly rises in the organization, and the bullets start to fly well before we have a chance to fully learn the identities of everyone shooting and getting shot. Despite the occasional gunplay, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" has more dead spots than a PBS fundraising marathon, a situation that only gets worse when Marcus's soul mate, Charlene (Joy Bryant), returns to his life so they can share in some pregnant pauses. Charlene gets pregnant, Marcus gets imprisoned, and Marcus ends his term on a pledge to leave the gangster life and make an honest living rapping.

But of course it's not that easy. Marcus's old gangster mentor, Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), turns against him and soon the "good gangster rappers" are battling the "bad gangster rappers" for control of the gangster rapper universe. For Marcus, the low point is when he gets shot nine times and has a near-death experience that's interspersed with a baffling sequence of his mother spontaneously giving birth in a diner. The high point is toward the end of the movie, when Marcus's triumph over adversity is signified by him performing a rap concert in his old hood, but not before the opening act of having his rival shot in the head. So you can see Marcus has really grown as a person.

The production notes make much of Fiddy's "charisma," but on the big screen he's more wooden than a Viking boat museum. Meanwhile, respected director Jim "In America" Sheridan seems to have reached that point in every director's career known as "paying the bills." His decision to spend a full two hours telling this 30-minute tale simply takes "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" from "bad" to "epically bad."

My advice: Get out of the theater, or die tryin'.

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