Rap star 50 Cent has led a storied life, a rags-to-riches yarn that has become the stuff of pop legend: Born Curtis Jackson and reared in Queens, New York, Jackson never knew his father and lost his mother, a drug dealer, when he was only 8. Later he became a dealer himself, going in and out of jail for dealing crack until deciding, in the mid-'90s, to pursue a career as a rapper. Columbia Records had signed him, and his first record was about to hit the streets in 2000 when Jackson (Mr. Cent?) was gunned down; shot nine times, he survived and went on to make headlines, not only for his infectious beats and lyrics, but for his frequent brushes with the law.
Good stuff and ripe for the cinematic telling, but "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," 50 Cent's fictionalized life story in which he plays a character named Marcus, is shockingly inert. While rap fans have no doubt eagerly awaited the big-screen debut of their hero -- whose hulking, tattooed physique belies the soft-spoken boy-man beneath -- film fans have been curious about the film's director, Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot," "In America"), whose commitment to classical, deeply humanist filmmaking would seem to be at odds with the grislier values of gangsta rap. Whether it's because Sheridan indeed wasn't a good match with the material, or because 50 Cent is such a poor actor, or because a life of crime -- which at the end of the day is a life of base stupidity and greed -- is really quite boring, "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " ain't rich, it's just tryin'.
-- Ann Hornaday