Directed by Jim Sheridan, starring Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, Joy Bryant, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Terrence Howard, Marc John Jeffries and Bill Nunn.
One of the surprises of 2003, the Eminem-starring '8 Mile' avoided vanity project excesses and cardboard performances and turned out to be a compelling story of someone trying to pull themselves up from the bottom of the barrel. As a successful formula, it was only a matter of time before it was copied, and if Eminem's pre-fame life proved colourful, then Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson's life story - a former drug dealer who was shot nine times - was a scriptwriter's dream. Put 'Sopranos' scribe Terence Winter and Irish director Jim Sheridan in the mix and 'Get Rich or Die Tryin'' had the same combination of urban drama, hype and curiosity that '8 Mile' capitalised on so successfully. Sadly the similarities end there.
Described by Sheridan as being about 80% accurate as a biography of Jackson's life, 'Get Rich or Die Tryin'' introduces us to Marcus (Jackson) as he prepares with his crew for a heist on a Colombian gang's hangout. The money got, the evidence is destroyed and the crew split up, with Marcus driving back to his grandmother's house. But someone is waiting for him and when Marcus gets out of the car he is shot a number of times. His life then flashes back to his growing up without a father, the death of his drug dealer mother, his own initiation into the underworld, his love of hip-hop and Charlene (Bryant), the woman he's loved since childhood.
On the surface, Sheridan's choice of 'Get Rich or Die Tryin'' as a follow-up to the critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated 'In America' was a baffling one, but the theme of the underdog rising above the situation he finds himself in runs through almost every film in Sheridan's career. This one, however, feels anonymous and could be the work of any jobbing hip-hop video director - its mixture of drama and violence never gels and it says nothing that films like 'Clockers', 'Fresh' and 'Menace II Society' didn't say far, far better.
The main reason for this being so dull and lifeless is that, unlike Eminem, Jackson just can't act. He may be built like a truck, but he has the screen presence of a dinghy and here he's acted off the screen by all his co-stars, in particular Howard as volatile friend Bama and Akinnuoye-Agbaje as twisted drug lord Majestic. It's only in the early stages of the film, when we meet the young Marcus (Jeffries), that you actually care what happens the character. Once he grows up, however, no matter how desperate the situation, you're more worried about how long is left.
Those who have followed Sheridan's career will find nothing here to interest them and 50 Cent fans won't have much to wax lyrical about either.