Get Rich or Die Tryin
If the performers are game, a bad director can make an enjoyable movie, while a great director can make passable uses of actors who are nominally talentless. And it would seem that the later is the burden director Jim Sheridan was saddled with when he went about making the biopic of Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson in Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005). Jackson, who exhibits a great casual charisma while rapping, doesn't have the emotional center to allow an audience into his mind. Such may be why the film is smattered with explanatory voiceover, but all that does is provide a quick bit of glue to hold together the segmented and dislocated narrative of his life story (Jackson has said that the film is 75% true a statement likely to be 25% accurate). Jackson plays Marcus, the son of a drug-dealing mother who never tells her boy who his father is, and who dies early on. Left on his own, Marcus has two pursuits, rapping and drug dealing. As he grows up in the drug business and gains power, he's reunited with his childhood sweetheart Charlene (Joy Bryant), whom he impregnates. But after a member of his gang is shot and paralyzed, he wants the retribution that lands him in jail. That's where he meets Bama (Terrence Howard), who becomes Marcus's manager and who protects him from gang leader Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbage), who has always had an interest in Marcus and could be his father, the killer of his mom, or possibly both. Though it's easy to blame Curtis Hanson and Eminem for the creation of Get Rich or Die Tryin' (8 Mile is definitely a template), turning pop artists into movie stars is a long-held cinematic practice. The success of Elvis Presley insured that producers will continue to mine the music charts for crossover performers, and Jackson is not the first nor the last in this line of dubious performers that include Roy Orbison, The Village People, and Mariah Carey. Sheridan has obvious talent, and there are sequences that reveal his cinematic eye, but because Jackson is little more than a rapping tablula rasa, there's scant room for growth. And perhaps most damning of all the music isn't all that memorable. The real heat comes from the supporting players, and Terrence Howard shines in his small part (there's a moment of poetry when Howard is in a restaurant and hit-men are about to come in to kill him when he removes a gun from the hat he left on the counter, and backs out wordlessly). If anything, his performance makes Get Rich not execrable as much as forgettable. Paramount presents the film on DVD in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (Dolby 2.0 Surround and French 5.1 are also included), along with English and Spanish subtitles. Extras include the featurette "A Portrait of an Artist: The Making of Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (29 min.), as well as the theatrical and bonus trailers. Keep-case.