It Died Trying

Columbus Alive | November 10, 2005
The dual ambitions of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s self-starring biopic are best illustrated by its promotional materials. Two posters have been designed for the movie, one with 50 facing the camera with an infant cradled in his hands, and another showing him from behind, prominently displaying the gun tucked into his pants.

The former, along with the hiring of Irish director Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot), implies quality and an effective redemption tale, like 8 Mile if you were into that film; the latter suggests yet another depiction of a misunderstood thug. Neither side wins out entirely, resulting in a film that’s strangely gritty and sanitized at the same time.

Sure, 50’s filmic alter ego Marcus had a mother who was a drug dealer before she was murdered, and he eventually picked up where she left off, taking nine gunshot wounds from a rival (a recreation of the rapper’s persona-defining injuries comes early in the film). But Marcus comes off as the hardest-working, most squeaky-clean crack dealer you ever did see.

His gun only comes out for self-protection and, of course, revenge, and though he says his crew shares the goals of “gettin’ paid and gettin’ laid,” the character saves himself for his childhood sweetheart (Joy Bryant), whose only reason for existence here is to give the star a son and a reason to keep plugging away at the rhymes.

Virtually every other character, from the untrustworthy player who supplied drugs to both Marcus and his mother (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) to the crazy man who becomes Marcus’ music manager when they’re both free from prison (a scenery-chewing Terrence Howard), is just as one-dimensional, including the main character.

It’s not that 50 Cent doesn’t get enough screen time to flesh out his part, it’s that he chooses to avoid giving a bad performance by giving no performance at all. Beyond a rare smile and an instance of forming what appear to be actual tears, the star is a moving stone in expensive sneakers.

Taking whatever crumbs the script provides them, most of the professional actors just sidestep him, but at least one, imposing veteran performer Bill Duke as a drug kingpin, can’t help but chew up and spit out the rapper in their major scene together.

But this isn’t about 50’s acting chops, it’s about turning his practice of glamorizing the lifestyle that nearly got him killed into legend, and adding enough gunplay to attract his fans. At the box office, the movie’s going to get rich, but on the screen, it dies trying.

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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