Get Rich or Die Tryin (2005)

Nobody likes to feel like their live is a joke, and to Curtis James Jackson III (Fifty cents) I’m sure this movie is no joke. While his “character” is named Marcus Caesar, this film was touted in 2005 as a “semi-autobiographical story” of 50 Cent’s rise to fame. In this case I think it’s safe to say that this was a clever way of not admitting that 50’s actually story of how he came to be the actual gangster rapper he is today is maybe not 100% true, as I’m sure many a Reddit nerd has dedicated thousands of devoted hours researching and debunking the many myths and truths that have been woven together to make the gift that is the MTV-sanctioned masterpiece, Get Rich Or Die Tryin.

Shockingly, Terrence Howard is his co-conspirator movie, but good for Curtis (Fiddy) for nabbing top billing in his own life story. RIght off the bat, we are greeted with a 50 Certs track I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy, and there are 10 n-words that are thrown around in the first verse alone. Oh, I’m sorry, MOM. Fiddy Centy is driving to a heist and there is one little dude in the car who looks like Rob Kardashian before he gained the weight, became a recluse and subsequently dated his half-sister’s boyfriend’s baby mama, who he then knocked up, became estranged with, and now can no longer see due to a pending revenge porn case/restraining order. And Terrence Howard is along for the ride too.

I should precurse this with saying that I do not especially know or enjoy the musical stylings of 50 Cent (of the Vitamin Water 50 Cents). I think most of the time he raps like he is reading a grocery list that might happen to rhyme occasionally, and he’s not especially interested in what he’s supposed to buy from said grocery store and what he’s reading is making him fall asleep. Like, he’s going to the grocery store to buy flour, maybe some condiments, and milk- he’s not getting anything exciting like snackies or pop. He’s an interesting person to me for every other reason besides his musical career (his relationship with Vivica A. Fox, his ambiguous/confusing bankruptcy issues, his odd choice in celebrity product endorsement deals, his Instagram, and his mansion in Connecticut that has devalued by over $13 million in the last 10 years for starters) but his music is what built the wonderfully tenuous multi-million (or possibly zero) dollar foundation in which he has built his empire. Truly he is an embodiment of the American Dream by way of Eminem, and this is roughly, allegedly, his MTV-produced story.

They jack a Colombian safe house (read- drug money laundering HQ), and there are no big bills- just wads of 1’s. They’re looking for the big bills and no one is volunteering where they are hiding them hundies, and Terrence Howard gets real tough and almost shoots the little boy- who was in the car with them but apparently he’s not part of the gang? 50 stops him and the two have a real emotional exchange, right in front of their hostages about how much they love each other and how disappointed they are in each other. In the middle of this Days of Our Lives sequence, the Columbians start to shoot back so they peace out with just the small bills, torch their ride, and 50 rides home in his civilian car (a small white Mercury sedan for all you gear heads). 50 doesn’t realize he has been followed home and once he parks, he gets popped 9 times by (supposedly) a member of the Colombian gang they just sorta-not-really ripped off. Um, maybe you’re familiar with the famous Fiddy lyric from In Da Club .. “If you watch how I move you'll mistake me for a player or pimp//Been hit wit a few shells but I don't walk wit a limp.” It’s a mouth full but now we know it’s AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

Flashback, 50 is 9-ish years old and driving in the car with his mom talking about his daddy issues. Sounds like his mom was a real ho, and 50 tells us in a voiceover “Everyone loved my mom, so anyone could be my dad. But I didn’t have a white daddy, and he certainly wasn’t a cop, black or white.” He spends a lot of time at his Grams’s house, and Viola Davis, as in Oscar-winner and Shodaland star, Viola Davis, happens to be his Grams. 50’s apathetic voice over informs us that his mom sells drugs, but he didn’t care because she buys him great sneakers, and he raps in secret onto an audio tape in his emotionless mumble cadence in his bedroom. It’s a little risque for a little kid to be rapping about humping, but his mom advises him with her drug dealer wisdom not to grow up too quick and to treat women well.

Later, we see the little girl who he has given the tape too, as her parents pop said tape into a boom box. It’s truly mortifying and I feel this little girl’s pain. For example, I watched 8 Mile with my friend and her mom one time, and when Eminem fucks Brittney Murphy while he’s at work, I wanted to crawl out of my skin and under the couch- so I get it, and actually this is the best scene in the entire movie. That little girl gets sent away to live with her grandparents because her parents care about her and I’m sure she lived a great life. 50’s mom, on the other hand, got murdered that night and his house got burned to the ground. They tell 50 this at school, naturally, because who doesn’t want to receive terrible news surrounded by their peers and teachers.

50 goes to live with Viola Davis full time, and that is one crowded table. People are literally snatching food off of his fork and he has to share a bed with two other kids. Suxxx. They tease him because 50 doesn’t know who his daddy is, but I don’t see this house of misfits crawling with fathers so maybe glass houses shouldn’t throw paternity stones. 50 starts sleeping on a cot in the basement because three kids in a bed is just too much. His mom can’t buy him sneakers any more, so he decides to sell drugs himself because those sneakers won’t buy themselves. He gets into a lot of fights as a little kid drug dealer, but he’s in it for the sneaker money and a gun.

Smash cut, and baby 50 is full-grown-but-still-in-his-teens mid-90’s 50, still living on the basement cot, but honestly- he’s pimped it out really well. It looks much better than the squalor everyone upstairs is living in! His… grandfather? Finds his gun, and angsty 50 says “why are you going through my stuff??” and runs off. Then 50 (who was 30 at the time playing a 17 year old, mind you) goes into high school that day, and the security guard shakes a dozen coke bags out of a sock and he is buuuusted. He goes to court, and his grandparents get pissed, but he tells him he’s a gangster GET OVER IT! And he stuffs all of his shit into a trash bag and moves out.

He finds, seemingly the same day, an abandoned factory office apartment to live in with the help of his mom’s old drug dealing buddy, Majestic. It’s a real fixer upper, but anyone who has seen one episode of Fix It or Flip It could tell it would clean up real nice. Now 50 has his own place, as the voice over reminds us, and he is ready to pursue his dream- his rap career dream. This dream is not be confused with his post-Vitaminwater dreams, which involve questionable investment practices, endorsement deals with flimsy underwear companies, and becoming involved with the precious metal industry, because that movie is still begging to be made.

He gives up his rap dream in 20 minutes and goes back to coke dealing. Which is great, because watching him rap is a little painful. 50 is in cahoots with Majestic, who has found a way to made some kind of super crack cocaine? Maybe I don’t know enough about drugs to understand what he’s making. Majestic advises his legion of drug dealers, including 50, to “fuck a bitch, don’t let a bitch fuck you.” Sage advice for all ages, for sure. 50 pulls together a little crew dedicated to, ahem, getting paid and getting laid.

They don’t seem to be having too much fun, but 50 finds time to sneak off and practice rapping every one and a while. His voiceover tells us that he is basically a mid-level manager making minimum wage when you account for waiting around time, court time and jail time. He also has the burden of being a supervisor of sorts among his peers, making sure his crew subordinates wake up on time, shower, and get ready for a long day of hustling. Since the move to crack cocaine versus cocaine classic, they have more money, but not without more problems. They are in a constant war with rival gangs, namely the Colombians. Eventually, 50 works hard enough that he gets to meet the Big Drug Boss- he awkwardly tells Big Boss that he looks at him like a god. God, 50- don’t fanboy so hard!

Finally, 50 saves enough money to buy a dope ride, and that scene is basically akin to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman going back to the clothing store to tell the sales clerk that she made a “big mistake- HUGE,” except 50 goes back to actually buy the car after the salesman was an asshole to him. He rides away so gleeful while a 50 Cent song, Window Shopper plays on the radio. It’s a little confusing because he’s listening to future..him? Is this some kind of time travel paradox he has stumbled upon, unbeknownst to him? Either way he’s very happy, and starts doing some roleplaying about what he’s going to say to people inside his car. Good for him. He drives to a water slide on the beach to celebrate. And yet, he is still empty inside.

He drives his demo tape over to a record exec’s office, and intercepts him in the parking lot while he is talking on his flip phone (if you want to make a movie look dated without tryin, all you have to do is include whatever model cell phone is currently in vague, and that movie is guaranteed to look 1,000 years old by the time it is released on DVD or BluRay or whatever future technology is ahead of us- gag, am I dating myself)? The record exec, clearly impressed by 50’s new whip, takes the demo tape. 50 feels real good, and he starts rolling around with his crew hollering at honies. He stops in his tracks when he realizes one of those said fly honies is his lost love that he made the inappropriate rap tape for so many years ago! She (Sharlene) is in town to see her mom, and he convinces her to get food with him. They are having a wonderful stroll down memory lane, and she asks him what he does for a job. He tells her he’s a gangster/rapper and at first she’s like yeah, yeah okay ya nerd.

Meanwhile, 50 is doing an A+ job as a drug dealer. Everything is going great for him, and there is nay a consequence in sight. 50 goes out to a club with Sharlene to see this gangster rapper, Dangerous, who is basically signed and sponsored by 50’s drug dealing consortium (or is it an LLC? ESOP? Unclear). The club ends up getting shot up, and Dangerous gets popped a few times and one of 50’s crew gets shot and paralyzed. 50 brings Sharlene back to his factory office apartment and she starts pawing all his stuff- I would find that very annoying, but apparently they both have a deep unconditional love for each other, because she loved his corny little kid rap, and they totally fuqqq.

50 goes out to get revenge on the Colombian crew that popped his crew member. They are rolling around in a station wagon, and 50 tells them to park, and he straight up approaches 4 guys and shoots them all- but doesn’t kill them. He doesn’t seem to have that in him, and he hops back in the station wagon and they drive away. Sharlene isn’t so impressed with this gangster shit. She just wants 50 to go straight and write her stupid songs. The cops come raid the factory office apartment and find some drugs and now they’re in trouble. Big Drug Boss, on the is pissed that someone from his gang shot up the Colombians- he didn’t order that hit! He is very upset and called a company meeting to tell them what’s up in his scary soft voice. Don’t do something that Big Drug Boss doesn’t want you to without asking. Now Big Drug Boss has to “go away” to “pay a political debt.” That’s what I call going to see my family for Thanksgiving, but I’m guessing he means jail time. He leaves some guy with gold teeth in charge.

50 goes to jail since they found a bag of coke in what is technically HIS factory office apartment, and right away there is a naked shower shanking scene. Man butts that no one asked for galore- it’s a slippery mess with some dick and ball cameos. Enter Terrence Howard, who helps 50 deflect the initial shanking. The cops are slow to get there, and they start wailing on everyone. 50 is put into solitary immediately, and from under the crack at the bottom of the door, someone tosses him a straight razor blade. My first instinct was that it was a friendly person giving him a weapon to defend himself with, but 50’s voiceover suggested that someone gave it to him so that he could kill himself. Talk about the glass being half empty, 50!!! Some people are just not meant for solitude.

He starts scratching lyrics onto the wall of his cell. It is slow going. Meanwhile, back at 50’s drug job, Majestic somehow has twisted everyone into thinking gold teeth is a traitor, so they are torturing him, naturally going for the obvious- his gold teeth. No imagination, this group. We start to see the dark side of Majestic- he ends up suffocating gold teeth and now Majestic is in charge. Majestic is also becoming something of a record producer, with Dangerous being pretty much his only client. And then the Colombians bust into one of Dangerous’s recording studio looking for Majestic, and they shoot everyone but Dangerous.

Back in prison, 50 is out of solitary and is chatting with Terrence Howard. I’m not sure if Terrence Howard was aware what movie he is acting in, but he starts talking about light skin privilege/discrimination among his community. 50 immediately changes the subject to talk about himself. His cell wall is now filled with lyrics that he has scratched into the paint, and somehow he has obtained a small walkman-like recording device and headphones, and he is laying down some rap-mumble-talk masterpieces.

Meanwhile on the outside, Majestic has to make good with the Colombians because if he doesn’t they will cut off his supply. Meanwhile in prison, 50’s newest mumble rap core hit, When It Rains It Pours is a hit with his fellow inmates. Riddle me this though- where did he get the beat for this particular jam? Doesn’t matter. Anyway, people seem to like his simple licks, and Terrence Howard wants to be his manager. Even the prison guards are singing along to his songs, which have pretty high production value considering they are stage whispered into a walkman. Sharlene visits 50 in the big house, and she asks him point blank if he loves her (oooooh, look at you 21st century woman)! But, alas this is just a precursor to her telling him she is pregnant. He’s surprisingly supportive and concerned about her dancing career, so good on him.

Terrence Howard is released from prison, and shortly after so is 50. Majestic comes to pick 50 up and ask him to be his #2, but he tells Majestic he is out of the game and his rap career starts NOW (Terrence Howard managing, naturally). Majestic is not happy, but 50 wants to do his thing- Majestic can’t promise 50’s safety from the Colombians, but we’ll see what happens. 50 only has one member left from his original crew, and Terrence Howard does not take a shine to him; they have a weird exchange that maybe Terrence Howard ad libbed against the wishes of the producers but somehow it was in his contract maybe to keep it? Terrence Howard’s instincts are right, anyway, because 50’s remaining crew member is a Snitch Bitch reporting directly to Majestic.

50 and Sharlene have their baby, and 50’s grandparents are finally happy and back in the picture. Or maybe they aren’t, it’s only a 3-second scene where they show the newborn baby at the hospital with 50’s grandparents, I’m sure it’s a more nuanced relationship than that. Next scene, 50’s finally in the studio mumbling monotone rap to a beat that actually exists! While 50 is recording future hit I Don’t Know Officer, Terrence Howard is reviewing the bullshit contract that Dangerous/Majestic have written up. Terrence Howard says this contract is bullshit and 50 agrees. Majestic, pissed, visits Sharlene (still in hospital with baby 50) and makes thinly veiled threats while holding 50’s baby. 50 aint happy. His crew (which is like, just Terrence Howard and that one other remaining crew member, Snitch Bitch) isn’t sure what to do about it, so he channels all his feelings into making a song (which is strictly on the GRODT official soundtrack) Officer Down- an obvious diss track directed at Majestic, which Snitch Bitch immediate leaks. Majestic is pissed and tells Snitch Bitch to get rid of it, shut this shit down, and kill Terrence Howard. Truly a to-do list worthy of 50’s mumble stumble rap stylings!

Snitch Bitch tries to kill Terrence Howard while he’s having breakfast, but don’t they know that Terrence Howard, both in this movie and IRL is a little/incredibly crazy and always packing heat? He flashes his gun and they call off the hit- for now. Meanwhile, 50 and his boy Ter-How are trying to shop around his demo, but Majestic has black balled them from every record label, since they are refusing to sign with him. Terrence Howard suggests they go back to doing what they do best, and then we are transported back to the beginning of the movie, where Terrence Howard is leading the charge at the Colombian safe house robbery. It allll makes sense now and we are finally up to speed with 50’s shooting.

50’s been shot, and his grandparents run into the street and a neighbor tosses him into the back of his pickup. EMTs zap him back to life after he briefly flatlines, he goes into intensive surgery. Two surgeons talk over his unconscious body and have a brief moment where one says “the girlfriend said not to perform a tracheotomy because he’s a singer-” “Rapper.” the other surgeon corrects him. I’m sure this is just the tip of the racist iceberg for ol’ 50.

Snitch Bitch returns to Majestic’s lair and we learn that it was Snitch Bitch that shot up our boy 50! Snitch Bitch is surprised to learn that 50 is still alive after being shot 9 times, but Majestic is like you’re an idiot and stabs him to death. Everyone’s a critic. 50 is released from the hospital and goes to live with Sharlene by the beach (more accurately next to a parking lot next to the beach). He’s tooling around in a wheelchair, depressed as hell with his jaw wired shut- Kanye made it work but 50 is having trouble with it. Sharlene is worried about him. Understandably so, a gangster such as 50 is unaccustomed to beach-adjacent property living, and certainly unaccustomed to being around babies. Sharlene starts calling 50 a bad dad, and 50 sheds a single tear. Just because he walks around in a red bathrobe doesn’t mean he’s a bad dad!! It looks like a very comfortable bathrobe. Sharlene takes the baby and leaves him. He hobbles into the street in his red bathrobe and mumbles through his wired-shut jaw that he’s sorry. She stays. Soon after, he gets to remove his jaw wires- he’s like a teenager who just got his braces off and he wants to make the FUCK OUT. They shortly fuqqq. The scene lasts for way too long, but good on them for showing 50 eating out her asshole a little bit, I’m sure she appreciated that.

50 is back in the studio, jaw still a little stiff but honestly no one can tell the difference. They are recording I’ll Whip Your Head Boy, which is from the opening scene (see later notes on time/space continuum). I’m seeing a pattern in all of the many 50 Cent songs featured in this movie: they are all redundant as hell and maybe the words are kind of tough but his voice is so soft and, oh did I mention mumbled, and I also I hate all of it. 50 is on the mend, and getting his body out of that red bathrobe and back into fighting shape. He starts recording “Window Shopper,” which is the first song he plays in his new car, so maybe this is the point in the future where the rip in the time/space continuum occurs, transporting future-50’s music to past-50’s new white Mercedes, inspiring him to create said future music?? I only say that because technically I'll Whip Your Head Boy is later in the linear narrative. It’s a think piece.

50 gets some new ink, self-releases some mix tapes, hustles his CDs in barber shops, plays with his baby, plays a few small club shows, and takes a walk on the beach in one quick montage. He concludes that he needs to go see the Big Drug Boss in jail to get some answers. Big Drug Boss creepy whispers that he is 50’s real dad, and he wishes that he could have protected his mom. Quite a twist! It is barely acknowledged and 50 is back in the studio recording Hustler’s Ambition. This time it’s not in his janky home studio, it’s a real one! People seem to like it, and clubs are spinning his shit, much to Majestic’s chagrin. Everyone is singing along, and it is obviously bothering him. Majestic is trying to shut down 50’s big upcoming concert, but 50 is determined.

50 is backstage at his sold-out show. Majestic shows up before it starts and asks 50 if he really wants to go through with this? Maybe they could take a picture beforehand to show some respect? 50 refuses, and Majestic admits that he fucked and killed 50’s mom. 50 fucks him up, but the show must go on and he starts to walk away, then Majestic starts to charge him with a secret sword that was in his pimp cane, so Terrence Howard shoots him. Majestic is still a littttle bitsy alive, and begs 50 to kill him, but 50 walks away and Terrence Howard finishes the job because he’s cold like that. 50 takes a long, long look in the mirror and has the following insightful voiceover monologue:

I been looking for my father my whole life, I realized I was looking for myself. I felt like I was walking away from the old me and a new me was being born.

I should mention that 50’s character’s rapper name is Little Caesar.

His abs are also pretty good. THE END.