Despite evidence to the contrary, and despite a track record of films that are the equivalent of charred and mangled vehicles at the bottom of a ravine, rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (I actually know him as ‘Fiddy’) continues to be sold to us as an actor. Line up all of his films together and Dr. Richard Kimble would have to jump clear of the ensuing train wreck.
His performances have ranged from moribund to laughable, and yet he is continually trotted out in front of the cameras. A thinking person would have to ask why does Jackson, a performer who can barely speak clearly, continually appear in these unwatchable films as an unwatchable performer?
The answer is Cheetah Vision Films.
That company is behind most of Fiddy’s cinematic exploits, and that company is primarily responsible for why he finds work in movies. That company also happens to be owned by Jackson himself. That’s right, the only reason Mr. Four Bits finds work is that he hires himself. Hey, not bad work if you can find it — you just end up having an ass for a boss. This is also why in the opening credits two Oscar winning actors with major roles in the film find themselves billed AFTER Jackson.
You read that correctly. None other than Robert DeNiro and Forrest Whitaker appear in crucial roles, and Jackson appears in extended scenes with both actors. That is but one downfall of this escapade; placing an inept actor like Fiddy directly beside two thespians hailed as the best. Think of the comparative of your choice for sheer amusement: a dog-paddling nephew in water wings racing Michael Phelps, your college roommate with the Ramen noodle addiction cooking on Iron Chef. No exaggerated juxtaposition is hyperbolic here. This then leads to the next obvious question – just what in the HELL is DeNiro doing in such a fiasco?!
Well pocketing a few million dollars for a week or so worth of work probably had something to do with it. The production used his name and Whitaker’s, plus a token release into a handful of theaters, in order to peddle the distribution rights overseas and make a trim profit. One thing is certain – he didn’t sign on because of the script. Oh holy hell . . . the script.
To Serve, Protect . . . And Steal
Obviously what was tried for here was a Training Day style of grit. Corrupt cops and institutional conspiracy can carry some heft. This however is the polar, repugnant opposite. Even with some decent performances the story fails for the simple fact that there is not a single redeeming individual to be found. When there is no modulation in the damaged cast – EVERYone is a scumbag – you wonder why you are watching any of this. Jackson plays Malo, who along with two buddies just graduated the police academy, following in his late father’s footsteps. That’s right, we have to buy that the former drug runner/gangster rapper/multiple gunshot survivor Jackson is a cop. Seeing him in uniform implies he stepped out of a Party City store wearing an ironic Halloween rental costume.
We learn all three as youths had been involved in drug arrests, but fortune stepped in and they were given the chance to straighten up and go legit. They are each matched up on the force with damaged veterans; one is partnered with a violent racist, another is teamed with a cynic who is prone to releasing fellow black captives rather than seeing them arrested, and Malo gets Whitaker, a detective who is a corrupt junkie who commits more crimes in a day than answered dispatches. Instantly Malo meets Capt. Sarcone (DeNiro) who runs a police corruption ring, complete with its own underground strip club. He is also the former partner of Malo’s father, so the young recruit willingly wades waist deep in graft before his dress uniform is even sent to the dry cleaners.
From this low threshold the film dives further into the mire, and then burrows down to new levels of filth. When one of Malo’s friends is at a drug den and shoots up the clientele while strung out the event is treated as an annoyance. Then during a routine stop Malo’s partner kills a civilian point-blank to confiscate some drug money, and Malo fails to find this disturbing. Later Malo goes to his longtime lover Cyn and when she asks if he loves her and he can’t bring himself to say it, she kicks him out. Looking forlorn he goes to the skank bartender from the club so she can snort lines off his body between romps. Hell, even that lone positive trait – the youths going to the academy – is tainted by the DA’s wife having paid Malo and a friend to double team her on the side.
Absolutely nothing in this slog is worthwhile. These are not characters you tune in to care about; these are people you turn state’s evidence against. The best metaphor for this affair is the way the story is set in New York City, yet the entire production was shot in New Orleans. In the same fashion, they used human beings to play roles that are not living characters.
00:03:07 Want to know how you can tell you have a shot-on-the-cheap, quick sell-off of the rights, type of production? During the opening credits you need to sit through no fewer than TWENTY ONE listed producers.
00:05:06 We get treated to an example of the nobility this group has when they are toasting their graduating the police academy. As they raise glasses one friend proposes they stay on the right side of the law. Immediately another responds: “To the ultimate hustle!”
00:58:50 Malo/Jackson has an appropriately blank stare on his face when one character mentions the word “dossier”.
00:35:22 Nuked The Fridge When Whitaker’s cop kills a woman in front of him in cold blood it does not occur to Jackson that maybe he should do something in this moment – you know, like respond, or show a reaction.