"Get Rich or Die Tryin’" is the name of the movie about Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, a very wealthy rapper who was once shot nine times by an enemy during his criminal pre-music industry salad days.
Jim Sheridan — the Irishman who brought us such sensitive material as "In America" and a bunch of movies starring Daniel Day-Lewis — is the director. The film opens tomorrow and Paramount hasn’t really made a big deal out of it for the New York press.
Luckily, GQ magazine sponsored a screening last night, and a party later at a new nightclub called Happy Valley. It sounds like the name of a nursing home, but by the time we got there the cement and concrete edifice was — literally — shaking from the rap adventure going on inside.
How is the movie? Sheridan can’t make a bad film, and his reputation is intact. However, "Get Rich" is problematic. For one thing, it’s extremely violent. I mean, no kidding, right? It’s about gangsta rappers killing, shooting, stabbing, beating the heck out of each other. What fun!
There are a lot of scenes where you have to turn your head. There are a lot of dental episodes in which dentists are not involved. The violence is non-stop, although Sheridan and screenwriter Terence Winter were smart to throw in some levity here and there. Believe me, it’s needed.
Jackson, aka 50 Cent, plays a fictionalized version of himself. He is no danger of winning an acting award. His mien is one of befuddlement most of the time. He is also a mumbler, which doesn’t help matters.
If I didn’t know that he’d made millions in rap and lived in a big Connecticut mansion, I’d think he was not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. But obviously, Jackson has something going on. It’s just elusive, I guess.
What Sheridan did, which was genius, was to surround Jackson with the best actors he could find. Terrence Howard — who already made his mark this year with "Hustle & Flow" and "Crash" — is wonderful as Bama, the Jackson character’s prison buddy who becomes his manager on the outside.
Howard is a cinch for a Best Supporting nomination from either this film or "Hustle & Flow." If he picks the right projects next, he will be very big.
Otherwise, Sheridan adds Viola Davis and Joy Bryant (who were each in "Antwone Fisher"), the spectacular Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje from "Oz" and "Lost," plus Bill Duke, Sullivan Walker and Russell Hornsby.
The casting is perfect and goes a long way to make up for Jackson’s lack of experience, although I do wish that Davis — who’s phenomenally talented — would get a role where she could wear makeup and smile.
That isn’t to say that Jackson doesn’t have his moments. He does, they are just few and far between. And "Get Rich or Die Tryin’" has a lot more to overcome than Jackson’s acting or the endless violence. There’s no point to it.
Jackson’s Marcus character is a thug raised in violence who commits a lot of crimes and lives like an animal on the streets. In the end, it’s only his success as a rapper that saves him, but he’s seemed to have learned little from it.
I couldn’t help thinking about convicted murderer Stan "Tookie" Williams on death row in California, who has been talked about as a possible Nobel Prize contender, has written nine books and earned respect by turning his life around.
50 Cent has simply made a lot of money by overcoming his violent life. I don’t know if that’s enough to make a movie about. It’s certainly not a philosophy to teach anyone to live by.
By the way, the credits for "Get Rich or Die Tryin’" were almost more interesting than the movie. Interscope Records president Jimmy Iovine, one of the film’s producers, has three assistants listed. 50 Cent’s barber gets a credit, even though I’m pretty sure the rapper has a shaved head.
Mr. Cent, er, Mr. Jackson, also has his own separate legal representative credited, as well as a personal driver, assistant and security guard.
There’s also a lot of sampled music, which means royalties for Ashford & Simpson, Bob Marley, Thom Bell and Roy Ayers among the various composers. It’s all good, but it must have cost a fortune to clear the rights for that soundtrack!
Tonight, at 9 p.m. EST on UPN, you can see Patti LaBelle’s birthday special that was taped live at the Atlantis in the Bahamas last month.
The show is full of great moments, including Jimmy Fallon doing a riotous imitation of ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald. The latter also wows the crowd in a duet with Patti of “On My Own.”
Other featured artists not to be missed included Kelly Rowland with Nelly, Boyz II Men, Yolanda Adams, Gerald Levert and Ashanti.
Patti also reunites with Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, her old Labelle buddies, to do “Lady Marmalade.”
What probably was cut out: Patti bringing Gerald’s dad, Eddie Levert, of The O’Jays on stage during a break. “They said he was too black for the show,” Labelle announced, making Levert blush. We never found out who Patti thought said that, and anyway, The O’Jays are a national treasure who cross all lines, imagined and otherwise.
Powerhouse management outfit The Firm has signed a rock group called The Tender Trio right in the nick of time. I caught Royston Langdon and friends last night for a short set at the Mercury Lounge in New York City. They’re ready for prime time.
Langdon is married to actress Liv Tyler, but is best known for his late, great group Spacehog. They’re included on Sire Records’ new box set retrospective. Langdon can really sing, and they have the music. A signing should be forthcoming…
It was great to see '60s pop icon Frankie Avalon at the opening of "Jersey Girls" on Sunday night. He looks like just the same as ever, un-aged. But Frankie told me that his forever-partner in pop stardom, Annette Funicello, isn’t faring so well in her brave fight with MS. Our prayers go out to her, our favorite Musketeer…
Also at "Jersey Boys": the inimitable Danny Aiello…
Last: Michael Jackson is back in Dubai. He spent the weekend there with his kids at the One and Only Royal Mirage. What about the charity single? Neverland? More to come, I promise, in the days ahead…