Get Rich Or Die Tryin' offers an even more unlikely collaboration than 8 Mile, which saw sophisticated director Curtis Hanson join forces with cuss-crazy rap-star Eminem. It almost sounds like a joke: the buff Queens-born rapper 50 Cent - or Curtis Jackson, as he is known here - and the ageing Irish director Jim Sherdian (yes, he of In The Name Of The Father and The Boxer fame) working together. But that is the selling point of Get Rich Or Die Tryin' - named after 50 Cent's debut album. Sadly, this sub-Boyz N The Hood effort never produces the fireworks this unusual pairing promises.
Like 8 Mile, it's a semi-biographical tale, as our hip-hop star - here named Marcus - rises from the gutter to reach for the stars. But while Hanson's film dealt with a few days of its character's life, Get Rich Or Die Tryin' takes us from childhood to the verge of stardom, a story painted in the broadest of strokes. His single mother a drug dealer, Marcus is brought up not to question the morals of her moneymaking schemes. "It didn't mean anything to me except good sneakers," he says. So it's no surprise that after she's murdered, he joins "the family business", as he calls it.
As he rises through the ranks of a local gang, Marcus secretly hones his rap skills to pull himself out of the ghetto. If this sounds familiar, it might be because it bears an uncanny resemblance to the far superior Hustle And Flow. Furthering the comparison, that film's star Terrence Howard pops up as a fellow felon named Bama who Marcus meets during a stint in prison, and who later becomes his manager. Yet while that film rippled with energy and passion, Sheridan's movie never manages to match it - as demonstrated by the feeble romantic subplot between Marcus and childhood friend Charlene (Bryant).
Marcus is forced to recover from a violent gangland shooting. But whether or not these events actually happened to Jackson in real life, and in such dramatic fashion, they still feel like stock scenes from any hip-hop/gangster movie. So does the power play between gang leader Levar (Duke) and his ruthless understudy Majestic (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an underwritten and unnecessary sidetrack. There are some powerful moments, such as when Marcus finally takes to the stage, but with Sheridan relying on Jackson to carry the movie, it was never going to be easy. Delivering a wooden performance, the charisma-free star doesn't manage to conjure up the magic.