It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Get Rich or Die Tryin' " offers a limited range of choices, but we'll probably never see a film titled "Get By and Don't Die." The film is inspired by the haunting life story of Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who never knew his father, whose drug dealer mother was killed when he was young, who sold drugs on the streets of New York City and survived gunshot wounds to become one of the best-selling recording artists of modern times. It has been an amazing life, and he is only 30.
Of course the odds against a young drug dealer eventually selling 4 million copies of an album are so high that, by comparison, getting into the NBA is a sure thing. A more accurate title might have been, "I Got Rich But Just About Everybody Else Died Tryin', and So Did I, Almost." Given the harrowing conditions of his early life, Jackson's movie dwells on it with a strange affection; the movie is closer in tone to "Scarface" than to "Hustle & Flow," the year's other rags-to-riches rap story.
Billboards for the movie have been protested by citizens' groups -- not do-gooders or killjoys but people who have seen the bodies on the streets and attended the funerals and seen drugs taking a deadly tax of young manhood. "Hustle & Flow" is about a man (Terrence Howard) who wants to escape the drug world and become a musical artist. "Get Rich" is about a man who hangs on in the drug world as long as possible, and becomes a musician because he is talented and very lucky. There is a difference between these two life strategies.
Still, I must review the movie, not offer counseling to Curtis Jackson. "Get Rich" is a film with a rich and convincing texture, a drama with power and anger. It shows its young hero taken in by grandparents who love him (Viola Davis and Sullivan Walker) after the death of his mother, and then being lured by the streets because, quite simply, he wants money for athletic shoes and, eventually, a car. There seem to be few other avenues of employment open to him, certainly none that he seeks, and although his mother tried to shield him from her business, he saw what happened and how it worked and he knows who the players are.