‘Get Rich’ is a fascinating look into ‘gangsta’ culture
November 9, 2005
Sometimes motion pictures remind us just how uninformed we are about the world around us. The recent violence taking place in France is a reminder as to what can happen – and has happened – in our own country. It’s easy to escape all that is ugly and pretend that it just doesn’t exist, but it does. Those of us who choose to ignore the problems at a macro level, saying it can never happen here, are just one fuse away from possible anarchy. In our own back yard, there are pockets of such incidents that occur almost daily but fail to make the national news because they are so common.
On a micro level, when we get to experience the frustrations through the eyes of one individual, it may not solve the problems he has inherited, but it gives us an insight as to why such problems are cyclical.
With this in mind, I went to see director Jim Sheridan’s latest with open eyes, trying not to pre-judge his character’s dilemma. Also, I don’t own any CDs by the rapper known as “50 Cent,” so I watched with a clean slate.
As an actor, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is a powerful force, and his story, supposedly based in large part on his own life experience, makes for an even more interesting reason to watch this. He was able to turn his situation around, thereby breaking the cycle of violence and forge a future for himself and his young family.
Some will argue that this plot has been covered before in such movies as “8 Mile” and “Hustle and Flow.” Eminem turned out to be a very good actor, and his song “Lose Yourself” took home the Oscar for Best Original Song, which turned quite a few heads.
“Get Rich or Die Tryin'” is a violent picture, hands down. It’s disturbing that people care less about life than they do about their bling bling, and the proliferation of guns makes them as accessible as candy bars. This fact is introduced early on in the life of young Marcus (played very convincingly by Marc John Jefferies), when his mother is violently murdered. What struck me was that she was just another casualty and it wasn’t so much why, but when, she was going to die. You can see the unfortunate seed being planted in the young man and what will no doubt grow into yet another problem in the urban jungle. So what, you ask? I started getting into the motion picture early on, even before the rap and urban beats would define the rest of the picture. The movie for me was becoming more a lesson in social unrest, and at what point the hatred takes over one’s soul.
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It’s interesting that the female figures in Marcus’ life are very strong, including Serena Reeder, who plays his doomed mother, Katrina, who opts for drugs as a way to make ends meet. His grandmother, played by Viola Davis, takes over in the mother role, and her performance was also striking and very strong. Even his childhood sweetheart, Charlene (Joy Bryant), turns in a fine performance as the woman who tries her best to steer the angry Marcus into more of a positive role model. The rest of the female characters throughout the movie are merely perks for those in the “gangsta” business and don’t offer much in the way of substance other than to shake their booty among the flying bullets for their man.
The movie starts out incredibly strong and quickly grabs your attention. The rest of the film is told in a narrative format by 50 Cent himself, with flashbacks to his youth setting up what the beginning of the picture was all about, and concludes with a predictable ending.
As the adult Marcus, 50 Cent pours all of his passion into his role. Maybe it’s just the biographical angle that I find interesting, but the movie is a compelling piece of work that rarely drags at all.
“Get Rich or Die Tryin'” may find it tough to draw a crossover audience, unless you’re already a fan of the rapper, but it’s worth giving it a shot. (Bad pun – sorry.) One thing is for sure: I have never felt so white in my entire life watching this – not because of the music so much, but because I never could have imagined such an upbringing as a child. I like that I can still admit to being a little naïve outside of my own daily existence, and I find someone else’s world fascinating enough to want to learn more about their existence. I mean, I do have a few Eminem CDs after all. Oh, yeah, I forgot: He’s white, too.
– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada. He co-hosts the morning show on Tahoe’s KRLT radio, and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television here in South Lake Tahoe.