50 Cent: Out of da club and into da film

‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ ‘ aims to show us just how hard the rapper worked to taste success

by Keri Carlson

We all know Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is tough. We recognize the image of shirtless-50 with basketball-size muscles. But more than that, we can practically recount the story of 50 being shot nine(!) times.

While 50 Cent uses his gangster life as source material for his music, many of the toughest-of-the-tough songs can be found only on his albums. On the radio, 50’s hits have content similar to any other mainstream rap song. “In da Club” is exactly its title – a song for the club. And “Candy Shop” turns a lollypop into a silly and obvious metaphor. (Dumbest line: “I melt in your mouth, girl, not in your hands.”)

Now 50 stars in a film based on his life (sort of) and named after his breakout album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” And we already have an expectation of what will happen in the film – 50 will be shot nine(!) times and then have a successful rap career.

Because Jim Sheridan (“In America” and “My Left Foot”) directs, it seemed “Get Rich” could actually be a poignant film, like his others, centered on a protagonist’s struggle to rise above a horrific situation.

The 50 Cent movie had the potential to be either a “Goodfellas”-style look at violence – like one of his deep album tracks – or a caricature so over-the-top it becomes humorous – like “Candy Shop.”

The film’s result is somewhere in between. “Get Rich” attempts to be more than simply glorified violence. Sheridan is careful to develop the transformation from 50 as a crack dealer to 50 as a rapper. And the audience cares enough about 50’s character, Marcus, that this metamorphosis is welcomed. But this makes the film an absurdly long 134(!) minutes.

“Get Rich” also spends time addressing the problems of absent fathers. It is a noble issue and it works to help explain Marcus’ actions and journey. But from the beginning, Marcus has to give a voiceover to explain to the audience that he was always in search of his father. This part of the plot is pushed too much in certain scenes while in others, it was not obvious enough.

Similar to other Sheridan films, “Get Rich” celebrates a type of American dream where the individual, if strong-willed enough, will overcome. Marcus predictably has a happy ending, and maybe this is true of 50’s life, but because the audience already knows the outcome, this victory is not victorious enough. The individual wins, but no one else does. And thus the film’s likeability comes down to the individual’s feelings about 50 Cent.

If you like 50 Cent, then you might enjoy his biography. But the rest of the film, though it tries, fails to capture any deeper meaning.

Recently, 50 commented to the press that he thinks Katrina was an act of God and that Kanye West was wrong to blame President George W. Bush for the government’s reaction. This statement in some ways represents 50’s social Darwinist attitude also present in the film. 50 thinks that because he works hard enough, because he believes enough, because he will do whatever it takes, he is successful. And this is true – he probably wouldn’t be a chart-topping artist if not for his hard work – but the problem comes from the notion that because he did it, so can anyone else.

He sees the Katrina disaster as another struggle for individuals to overcome; whereas West points to factors that prevent not just individuals, but an entire race and class from succeeding.

Maybe whether you like “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” or not isn’t so much about whether you like 50. Maybe it depends on whether you think Bush really hates black people.