First published Feb 11 2009
I figured I was on a roll with the reviews, so thought I would broaden my range a little and move away from the comic book movies... Going for a slightly older movie here, and one I doubt many of you will have watched. Hope you enjoy the review!
I bought this movie on impulse one day when I found it for £4 at HMV in Portsmouth. The reason I picked it up was because I was certain it would be absolutely shit, and would be a real laugh to watch (one of those “it’s so bad it’s hilarious” kind of movies).
Upon viewing it, however, I realized how wrong my initial suspicions had been. The movie opens with a shot looking at the wing mirror of a car as it drives through the streets of New York, and across the Brooklyn Bridge. The track playing over the top is a rap song written by 50 Cent specifically for use in the movie, and I have to say, it is one of the best rap songs I have heard used as a movie theme since Eminem’s Oscar winning track “Lose Yourself” from the movie 8-Mile. The track has some awesome drum beats and a heavy bass line, and the director made the awesome choice to have the wing mirror vibrate every time a bass note is played, as would happen if you were really driving along blaring out loud music with your bass turned up (as I’m sure everyone who drives will be able to tell you). This effect alone gave me some high hopes for the movie, because I knew that the director was at least vaguely competent.
The real point at which I decided to start watching the movie seriously, and not just for a laugh, occurred at the end of the opening credits, when I saw the name of the writer. Terence Winter. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Winter was one of the head writers on the TV series ‘The Sopranos’, and is responsible for many of the best episodes (including this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4OakqPbUj0, which he co-wrote with Tim Van Patten if memory servs...). With a script from a writer of that calibre, the movie was almost guaranteed to be good, and the opening scene definitely did not disappoint. Within minutes, we see 50 Cent and his boys, including Terrence Howard (who at the time I knew as ‘the detective from Four Brothers’, but who I’m pretty sure everyone else only knows as ‘that Air Force Colonel from Iron Man’ these days), carry out an armed robbery on a Colombian Gang’s safe house. The scene is action packed and very intense, and best of all, we see that 50 can actually act, something I personally had not expected. At the end of the opening sequence, we see 50 Cent’s character Marcus get shot outside his grandmother’s house, in one of the most brutal shootings I’ve seen in a film (outside of an actual shoot-out) since Casino. After this scene, we flashback to Marcus as a kid, and from then on the movie plays out in chronological order.
The plot revolves around Marcus’ rise from a street level teenage drug dealer to rap star, and all that happens to him in between. We start out with Marcus being nothing more a poor kid trying to scrape a living dealing Coke in Queens, and follow his rise to power as one of the best earners in ‘Mr. Majestic’s’ crew. Majestic, a powerful black gangster who is a captain in one of the largest crews in New York, befriends Marcus at a young age, and helps him gain the power and money he craves. Majestic is played by a fantastic Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who’s name I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce, who most people will know as Nykwana Wombosi from The Bourne Identity. Agbaje manages to pull off being both the calm and intelligent mentor to Marcus, and psychopathic killer, that the part requires of him with ease, and is totally convincing throughout most of the movie. The rest of the supporting cast are also very good, and Terrence Howard is flawless in his portrayal as Marcus’ not-quite-all-there manager in the latter half of the film.
Howard is introduced at around the half-way point of the film (excluding his 5 minute scene at the start before the flashback), in one of the most memorable yet horrific introductions of a character in movie history – the prison shower scene. This scene isn’t quite as bad as you might imagine from the previous sentence, and luckily does not involve any male rape. However, it is something that I am certain will haunt me for the rest of my life (or at least, for the rest of my life as long as I watch Terrence Howard movies). Basically, what happens is; Marcus is throw in Prison for drugs possession, and on his first day inside, he is attacked in the showers by a knife-wielding Columbian inmate who wants revenge for Marcus shooting one of his fellow gang members in the leg earlier in the film. Howard’s character, Bama, happens to be showering at the same time as Marcus, and when the attack starts, he tries to help fight off the knife-wielding Columbian. In order to show this scene unfold, the director, in his infinite wisdom, decided to use a long shot of the entire shower block, intercut with a number of close-ups of the action. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that, when Howard is forced to retreat away from the other inmates to avoid getting stabbed, we are left with a shot of his penis directly in front of our eyes, and believe me – this is not a pleasant sight. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that during a knife fight in a cold shower surrounded by a bunch of naked men, my penis wouldn’t exactly look big – but Howard’s penis borders on disturbingly small. In fact, scratch “borders”, it’s horrific to look at. I mean, I don’t like full frontals in movies anyway. The one at the start of 28 Days Later ruined that movie for me (as opposed to 28 Weeks Later, which was ruined just by being shit), but this is just wrong. It’s so small that rather than simply being able to type “WARNING: FULL FRONTAL ON HOWARD”, I have instead written this entire paragraph warning people that, even if they are female or homosexual, they will not enjoy this scene (except possibly for comedy value). If you think I’m exaggerating here, well, there’s nothing I can do to prove I’m not – since I can’t even find a clip of it on YouTube – which you know means it’s GOT to be bad (admittedly, I did not type in “Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Shower Scene”, out of fear of what would appear in my ‘recommended for you' section the next time I logged in. But seriously, you don’t want to see that anyway...). In short, if you want to watch this movie, but want to be able to have normal dreams as opposed to nightmares in future, I suggest that you either look away when this scene’s on, or simply fast-forward. Unless you have a small dick fetish (in which case if you’re a hot woman, feel free to private message me...).
Anyway, back to the film. In prison, Marcus decides that he’d rather focus on becoming a rapper than continue drug dealing, so he agrees to hire the small-dicked Bama as his manager. Upon leaving prison, Marcus is met by both Bama, and Majestic. Majestic offers Marcus the position of his being his right-hand man, which (with Majestic’s having framed the Boss and murdered the underboss via plastic bag to the head whilst Marcus was in prison), would make him number two in the hierarchy of the entire New York crew. Marcus, however, has already made up his mind, and decides to go with Bama instead, and fulfil his dream of being the “illest mothafuckin’ gangsta rapper the world has eva seen, G!” .
Marcus meets up with his girlfriend and his old posse, and spends his time just chilling and going on about what a great rapper he is. His girlfriend has a child (who we are informed is his, but I’m fairly sure we only find out she’s pregnant whilst he was in prison...), and Marcus feels like he is on top of the world. But then, Majestic does something to dis him (probably, I can’t really remember), so Marcus sings a song about either Majestic, or his friend the rapper ‘Dangerous’ (who is white), and Majestic gets annoyed. He goes to the hospital, and picks up Marcus’ baby whilst his girlfriend is asleep. She wakes up and sees Majestic with the baby, who hands it to her with a warning that Marcus should apologize for his insult before his family gets hurt. When 50 hears about this, he says something along the lines of “He touched my family! I’m goin’ kill dat fool”, at which point we are given the cheesiest line of the movie when Bama goes to give Marcus his gun, and Marcus says “No, not like that. I’ma ‘umiliate him”, then starts rapping about Majestic. Honestly, guys? You’re going to kill him by rapping? Come on, if you’d just used ‘destroy’ rather than kill it would have worked better... Did Terrence Winter write that line or did 50 Cent write it after a few hits off the crack pipe? I can image how that conversation must have gone...
50 Cent: Whoa! Dis some strong shit!... a’ite, so he’s touched my kid, right?
50 Cent: ...and I’m angry at him, Yeah?
50 Cent: So maybe I should say “I’m goin’ kill him!”, and then I can smoke dat fool.
Director: That’s not a bad idea... but the producers have said that you can’t kill anyone in the movie, because it’s based your life, and they don’t want the public to think they’d associate with a murderer...
50 Cent: But I am a murderer, motherfucka! I smoke fools! I’m an Ice cold Gangsta, Biiatch! You don’t believe me? I’ma smoke you right now, fool! (50 Cent brandishes his gun)
Director: Whoa! Whoa! Hold on a second, man! I’m not saying you aren’t gangster. I know you’re 'Ice Cold'. But it’s the damn producers – they say they won’t be able to sell the movie if you kill him, so we need to think of an alternative! Remember, if we can’t sell the movie, you don’t get any money from it!
50 Cent: All right, my bad. (puts gun away) Forgot there was money involved... (takes another hit off the crack pipe) What if I say “I’m goin’ kill him”, then when the dude with a small dick goes to hand me his gun, I say “no, not like that – I’ma humiliate him. Bring him to me. See what he’s got...”?
Director: Actually, that’s not too bad – and it means we can include more scenes with you rapping before you get shot. I just have one slight suggestion, however... (50 takes another hit off crack pipe) I think instead of saying “Kill”, you should say “destroy”.
50 Cent: What?!? (pulls out gun again) You messing with my dialogue, motherfucka? I’ma kill you!
Anyway, I guess Jim Sheridan (the Director) must have managed to persuade 50 to put the gun down and not ‘smoke’ him (possibly by playing him the rap he wrote. SERIOUSLY: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006487/ (scroll down to “soundtrack), which you can hear HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKH6taE_bCY&feature=related (from around the 2:38 mark)). Anyway, after this, we see 50 Cent rapping a lot, but being refused record deals because Majestic has all the producers in his pocket. Bama then suggests that they go and rob the Columbians, just to make a bit of money before they can break into the rap business, and Marcus agrees to it. We then see the opening scene again, edited down slightly, up until one of Marcus’ homies, who was actually working for Majestic, shoots him a whole load of times outside his grandmother’s house. Justics, the guy who shoots Marcus, grabs the money they just robbed, and runs away, whilst Marcus lays in the street, dying. His family come out to help him, but he has been shot 9 times, and stops breathing on the way to the hospital in the back of a neighbour’s truck. This scene is just incredible, because we are given shots of Marcus’ “death” in the back of the truck, intercut with shots of him being born all those years ago whilst he mother was out working a as waitress (presumably before she became a coke dealer? Oh, I didn’t mention that earlier? Yeah, sorry. His mum was a dealer and worked for Majestic. That’s kind of important for the ending...). I’m fairly sure this scene is meant to be symbolic of the circle of life or something, but to be honest I just like it cos there are fireworks...
Anyway, Marcus gets to the hospital and is brought back to life, then tries to build himself backup again in a training montage. Meanwhile, Majestic kills Justice with a big sword for failing to kill Marcus. Though in Justice’s defence, he did shoot him more times than 2 Pac got shot... and we all know rappers are supposed to only be able to take 5 bullets without dying, right? Aren't they basically the same as the zombies from Left 4 Dead? I could have sworn I read that somewhere...
Anyway, Marcus gets back to full strength, and he and Bama start producing their records at his house, and distributing CDs all along his old crack-routes (Marcus’ CDs, not anyone else’s. Though to be fair if I was selling rap CDs on the street, I’d be tempted to fill the CD with Rick Astley songs...(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOU8GIRUd_g)). Marcus soon becomes the biggest rapper in New York, and goes to hold a big concert in the heart of Majestic’s territory. Majestic is, understandably, annoyed at this, so goes to confront Marcus. Just before the concert starts, Majestic begs Marcus not to go onstage and dis him. When Marcus refuses his offer, Majestic tells Marcus that he killed his mum for being such a whore and having sex with his boss when she was supposed to be with him. Marcus starts trying to kill him, but Bama pulls him off and tells him to get out on stage. Majestic says he can’t let that happen, and pulls out his big sword (though to be fair, anyone's would look big next to Bama's. ZING!). He takes a run at Marcus, but Bama shoots him. Marcus leaves the room, with Majestic lying on the floor bleeding, and walks out to go on stage. As he is walking out, we get some kind of voice over about how he made it, and is now God, and get the cool vibrating mirror shot again, this time on a full sized mirror. Marcus looks at himself in the mirror, then walks out on stage. The movie ends with him rapping in front of a screaming crowd.
While the movie does have a couple of minor flaws, such as poor dialogue and the odd continuity error, on the whole it is actually very good. The acting is top-notch, and the script is killer. It’s shot brilliantly, and the soundtrack is simply amazing; with the songs ‘I'll Whip Ya Head Boy’, ‘Window Shopper’ and ‘When It Rains It Pours’ all featuring prominently (also on the subject of the soundtrack, I just wanted to say: I’ve heard Lily Allen did a spoof of ‘Window Shopper’ where she said “Nan, you’se a window shopper” instead of “man, you’se a window shopper”. I would just like to point out here, Ms Allen, that you are spoofing the crappy radio edit of the song and it in fact goes “NIGGER you’se a window shopper”. With that in mind, your spoof no longer makes sense as the two lines now sound nothing alike. Perhaps you should actually bother to LISTEN to the songs you plan on parodying like Weird Al Yankovich does??? Oh, and stop dating men three times your age you Whoare! (That’s not a typo, that’s the Italian pronunciation))
What really amazed me about this movie as well was the fact that the director is a 60 year old Irish man, who on the DVD special features delivers such gems as “all these kids have is their hippin’ and their hoppin’”, and reveals that he is friends with Bono, and showed him the movie personally before releasing it. WTF????
Hmm... I appear to have lost my train of thought... serves me right for listening to “The Fresh Prince of Gotham” whilst trying to write a review... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWz5h4or-yo (real men download the MP3...)) though the existence of this in NO WAY justifies The Dark Knight!
So yeah, overall I thought this movie was pretty fucking awesome. Great script, great casting, great direction. Really the only problem I had with it was that horrific shower scene. It’s no Goodfellas, but it’s easily on a par with Boyz N the Hood, if not better (though I’ll admit, Ice Cube saying “NIGGA, PLEASE!” probably tips the scales slightly in favour of Boyz N the Hood). If you feel you can stand watching 50 Cent for 2 hours straight, then I would definitely recommend this movie (minus the prison shower scene) to you. Aside from The Departed, I’d say it’s probably the best American gangster film to come out in the past couple of years (though I’m possibly being completely retarded and have missed a really big one. And knowing me, if I have, I probably own it...)
(ignoring the shower scene)
Good, solid action movie with a fairly convincing human aspect to it as well. Not quite Goodfellas or Casino, but at the same sort of level as Boyz N the Hood or Four Brothers. Definitely worth a watch. Though to be honest, if you want to see a rap movie, 8 Mile has to be the way to go...
Oh, also – this movie shows you how to make crack... you know, just in case that would sway you...