Paid In Full
Based on the lives of some real-life drug kingpins from the early days of hip-hop, Roc-a-fella Films' Paid in Full follows the rise of three Harlem teenagers from street-corner hustlers to ghetto millionaires. Mitch (Mekhi Phifer) and Rico (Cam'ron) embrace the life from the beginning, whereas Ace (The Wire's Wood Harris) tries to earn a living at a laundromat before getting drawn into the drug trade. Paid in Full gets the expensive things right: Producer Jay-Z dropped a lot of cash on mid-'80s sports cars and vintage hip-hop tracks. But director Charles Stone III fails to make us believe for a second that we're in the '80s, allowing his cast to use contemporary slang and mannerisms to tell their story. Finally, the film's moralizing conclusion would have you believe that everyone involved intensely hates "the game" and all the materialism and violence that comes with it. So why have several people involved made stacks of cash selling themselves as the game's latest crop of winners? It will take more than one mediocre movie to make the Roc-a-fella crew seem like anything but unapologetic capitalists.