Get Rich or Die Tryin’ movie review (2005)

June 25, 2021

The best thing that happens to Jackson is that he is sent to prison. This probably saves his life, and it’s there that he’s approached by Bama (Terrence Howard again), a guy he already knows from the neighborhood, who tells him, “You need a manager.” This before he has a career. Jackson has always sung along with rap recordings, has started writing his own lyrics and observes in the narration, “After Tupac, everybody wanted to be a gangster rapper.”

He has the timing a little off, though. It wasn’t “after Tupac,” but “after Tupac’s death.” I remember Tupac Shakur in “Gridlock’d” (1997), where opposite Tim Roth, he showed that he was a gifted actor. Now he is dead. “Tupac: Resurrection” (2003), the quasi-documentary based on his life and narrated by his own words, makes an instructive parallel to this film.

Jackson is a good actor, at least in this film, playing himself. The same can be said of Eminem after “8 Mile.” Whether Jackson makes a career of acting is his choice. Joy Bryant is crucial in the film as Charlene, whom he has known since they were young, who loves him, who despairs at the danger he is in. There are smaller but significant roles for actors like Bill Duke, playing a drug wholesaler who tries to run an orderly business, but has too much turnover in the deadly front lines.

In an opening scene, Curtis is shot and left to die. This scene might as well come early, since everyone in the audience will know this happened to the real 50 Cent. “I was about to die,” he says in the narration. “I don’t know why I was expecting my father to rescue me — been looking for him all my life.”

This theme, the search for the father, may have been one reason Jim Sheridan, an Irishman in his 50s, seemed like a good director for this assignment. He knows about fathers and prisons (see his “In the Name of the Father”) and he knows about poverty in New York (see his “In America“). Many of his visuals are brilliant; look at the way the bass on an automobile’s sound system makes images in the rearview mirrors vibrate. Sheridan has made a well-crafted film, but it contains more drugs and less music than many people will expect. I guess people don’t attend movies about gangsta rap looking for career guidance and inspiration, but “Hustle & Flow” has a lot more of each, and more music, too.

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