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Wednesday, November 9, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Movie Review

Legend of 50 Cent loses luster on the big screen

Special to The Seattle Times

When Samuel L. Jackson turned down a role in this loosely autobiographical account of rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's rise from drug dealer to rap superstar, he asked a reporter, "What is it about 50 Cent that makes Jim Sheridan say, 'I'd really like to make a movie with him?' "

Sheridan is the Oscar-nominated Irish director of acclaimed films like "In America." Anybody who shows up for "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " because they share Jackson's curiosity will probably be left scratching their heads, too.

There's little that distinguishes "Get Rich" from any other violent gangsta-rap melodrama. It's as though Sheridan couldn't snap out of his own puzzlement to give edge to the story or life to a personality who reflects nothing more than an empty expression in virtually every scene.

Jackson (aka 50, aka Fiddy) plays Marcus, an orphan who ends up in the care of his grandparents after the murder of his drug-dealer mother. He starts dealing, too, under the tutelage of his boss, Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).

But Jackson is also an aspiring rapper. An inevitable bust sends him to jail for a few years, where he lays languid rhymes over sampled beats to make his own brand of poetry.

Out of prison, Marcus forsakes Majestic's offer to be his number two to pursue rap, a decision taken none too kindly by Majestic. Marcus hooks up with former cellmate Bama (Terrence Howard) as his manager. But they find themselves blacklisted by legitimate recording outlets thanks to the vindictive influence of Majestic, who's also grooming his own stable of rappers.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer 2 stars

"Get Rich or Die Tryin'," with Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joy Bryant, Terrence Howard, Bill Duke. Directed by Jim Sheridan, from a script by Terence Winter. 110 minutes. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content, sexuality and nudity. Opens today at area theaters.

With the pressure of his stalling career, Marcus and Bama resort to robbing Colombian drug suppliers — a disastrous scheme that worsens when Marcus is riddled with gunshots.

All these incidents are celebrated highlights from the real-life mythology that has made 50 Cent one of the biggest names in hip-hop. Still the questions remain: Why the movie? Why Jim Sheridan? Why the hype? The story and action are serviceable, but there's very little spark in the wooden screen presence of the star and the dearth of subtext or style from the director.

A shining exception is another notable turn by Howard as Marcus' ruthless sidekick. The chops and cred he represents ring far truer than Fiddy's. In fact, Howard already gave this story a significantly stronger spin in "Hustle and Flow," which makes the fictionalized 50 Cent myth look like chump change.

Ted Fry: tedfry@hotmail.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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