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Things I Learned Watching Get Rich or Die Tryin’

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50 Cent and Terrence Howard are wearing coats because it’s cold on the beach

Here are some things I learned from watching 50 Cent’s new movie Get Rich or Die Tryin’ today.

• It’s weird to go see a movie by yourself on a Thursday morning. It’s probably not something I should ever do again; I don’t want to become one of those guys.

Big Momma’s House 2 looks really, really bad.

• The kid who they got to play the young 50 Cent actually looks pretty much how you’d imagine 50 Cent looked when he was a child, except cuter and fatter. He also does a really great imitation of 50’s voice in the scene where he raps. He should win some sort of award for it.

• 50 wrote “Best Friend” when he was like eleven. Have you heard “Best Friend”? This makes sense.

• 50 Cent is slightly better at voiceover narration than the guy from the Dandy Warhols, which means he’s really really bad at voiceover narration, not that anyone could make much out of a line like “neighbors said they heard voices raised in a jealous rage.”

• 50’s dealer mentor and future arch-enemy had cornrows in 1986. He was a trendsetter!

• 50 Cent had a Dilated Peoples poster on his wall when he was a teenager. This makes no sense whatsoever. Later, we learn that he had a Gang Starr poster on the wall of his trap house, which is a little more believable.

• He’s a gangsta, Grandpa, and he’s proud of it.

• The movie has a weird chronology; apparently, Tupac hit New York before crack did. Also, everyone makes a big deal about how slurry his voice is after he gets shot in the mouth, but it’s slurry all through the movie. You’d think they would’ve given him a speech coach for the early scenes or something.

• 50 Cent never, ever looks at the road while he drives. I kept thinking he was going to hit a guardrail or something.

• Eminem’s fat sidekick from 8 Mile was 50’s fat sidekick in this movie. This guy’s name is Omar Benson Miller, and it would be awesome if he only played rappers’ fat sidekicks for the rest of his life.

• The fictional 50 Cent wear Rocawear, so apparently he has no problems with the fictional Jay-Z.

• 50 Cent shoots people, but he doesn’t kill them. He’s like Batman!

• The drug boss character is a Godfather ripoff to the point where he has jowls and speaks in a raspy mumble, which is a bit much.

• 50 can get recording equipment in prison. Not even C-Murder can do that!

• I thought the scene where he cries would look totally ridiculous and dumb, but it’s pretty good.

Get Rich is, of course, more an exercise in myth-building and market-positioning than a movie; its main mission is to remake 50 Cent as a likable person. After a couple of years of public dick-moves, bashing random smaller rappers and defending George W. Bush and making a lazy, bullshit sophomore album and just generally making himself omnipresent, 50 Cent needs to be likable again. The movie does its job. I knew that 50 Cent had to spend months in bed recuperating from gunshot wounds while a weak rapper backed by the dealer who may have had him shot had songs all over the radio, but it somehow became more visceral after seeing it depicted on screen. And it makes sense that 50 would be less joyous and more guarded than Jay-Z, his closest counterpart, a guy who had a similarly poor upbringing but who came into rap with no near-death experiences and a whole lot more drug money.

I was worried it would be a bigger version of I’m Bout It or Choices or something, grunted faux-badass dialogue and ludicrous gunfights and gratuitous strip-club scenes. But it holds up pretty well as a movie (better than 8 Mile, anyway), at least up until the completely incomprehensible final scene. 50 is a serviceable actor and nothing more, but he’s working with actors who know what they’re doing and a director who has a pretty good idea of how to camouflage his weak spots. The romantic scenes and family-drama scenes are OK, but the movie really comes to life when it hits all the obligatory crime-movie scenes: the failed robbery, the drug-corner brawl, the thrill of finally buying an expensive car. I love that stuff, and the movie gets every one of those scenes right. It also gives us a neat little glimpse at the gestation of rap beef. What it doesn’t give us is any sense of the work or rewards of the creative process. There’s nothing like 8 Mile‘s thrilling rap-battle climax or the bullshit-but-still-exhilarating songwriting scenes in Hustle & Flow. 50 labors over his lyrics, but he doesn’t ever hear the perfect beat or allow himself a smile after a great line. All his beats seem to materialize out of thin air, and he never seems possessed by his work. But artistry has never been a goal in itself to 50 Cent; it’s a means to an end. Dr. Doom is probably the greatest comic-book villain of all time because his desire for world domination is misguided but understandable, given his backstory. Now that we have a movie about 50’s backstory, his desire for world domination is similarly understandable. He’s rap’s great villain, and I mean that as a compliment.

Voice review: Laura Sinagra on Get Rich or Die Tryin’
Voice review: Greg Tate on 50 Cent’s The Massacre

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