In the past classically trained actor Samuel L. Jackson has blasted rappers who take on movie roles with little or no acting experience. I haven’t always agreed with his take on musicians turned thespians—Mos Def and Will Smith are credible actors—but after seeing Get Rich or Die Tryin’ I see his point. In this rap to riches story loosely based on Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s life, the rapper’s face is a blank slate that conveys little emotion. In one scene of the movie his grandmother says, “When I look into your eyes I don’t know what you’re thinking.” I agree with her. Co-star Terrence Howard is a terrific actor whose presence in the movie only emphasizes the rapper’s lack of ability. The performance possibly could have been saved if they had let him do what he does best—rap. For a film about a young man who dreams of being a hip hop star there is surprisingly little music here. There’s more talking about rapping than actual rapping and we only catch one short glimpse of 50 Cent in his natural habitat—on-stage.
This is a classic story about an alienated youth who wants to rise above the bad hand life has dealt to him—a drug dealing mother who is killed early on, a job as a low-level drug pusher—which could have been compelling, but instead comes across as clichéd.