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STUDIO: New Line
RUNNING TIME: 81 min.
• Animation Gallery
• G-Unit Photo Shoot
• “Making Of” Segments
Looking for the perfect holiday stocking-stuffer for dad? Fret not, because 50 Cent: Refuse 2 Die is here, in all its “gritty, unauthorized and unrated” glory. Using a myriad of media including 3D animation, interviews with rap luminaries such as DMC and Treach and live footage, the film attempts to bring you a raw, uncompromising take on the life of everyone’s favorite ghetto target practice.
Notice above how I said “attempts”, because the film kind of sucks a lot. If you already know the tale of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, then I beseech you to save your $20, because there’s nothing new or enlightening for you here. There is, however, about 40 minutes worth of god-awful “cutting edge” animation that seeks to enliven the story with a hip, video-game-like vibe; by the end of the movie, however, I was praying that the thug that gave 50 a lead salad would next turn his gun on the filmmakers.
Written by Underhill and directed by Mike Corbera, Refuse 2 Die chronicles 50’s rise from peddling crack in Jamaica, Queens as a kid to his current status as rap star/cultural icon. The film highlights several interesting diversions and opportunities that occured on 50’s journey to fame, from his fondness of pugilism that developed during an extended jail stint to his musical associations with Jam Master Jay and Eminem. Oh, and remember how I said it was “unauthorized” way back in the first paragraph? That means the story is narrated by a guy pretending to be 50 Cent, in this case, a guy by the name of Leviticus Richardson. That’s a pretty awesome name, but the guy’s impression of 50 isn’t exactly awesome. You’ll hear 50/Leviticus wax poetic about Murder Inc’s Irv Gotti (“a bitch”), his Columbia label bosses (“crazy music motherfuckers”) and, of course, his flow (“nonstop”). The film is largely framed by a Sin City-aping animation that shows us an IN-YOUR-FACE glimpse of 50 being rushed to the hospital after getting his legs filled with piping hot bulletage; the animation is pretty hilariously awful and sets the tone for some of the high school video-production-quality animations you’ll see later on in the film.
Since it’s at least kind of a documentary, you’ll be marveling at handfuls of live video footage and a smattering of interviews with DMC, MTV’s DJ Skribble, Treach and Curtis “Pops” Jackson, Sr.. The diverse assortment of archival video footage serves three key purposes:
1) To demonstrate 50’s intense live performances. However, because this is an unauthorized documentary, they couldn’t get any of his actual music, much less the actual soundtrack to the footage. So, you’ll get to see, but not hear, 50 rap over a bunch of generic, lifeless filler beats. WHAT FUN!
2) To be bizarre. During an impassioned soliloqouy by 50/Leviticus in which he explains that his determination to succeed was driven not only by his lust for money, but his lust for puntang, you’ll get to watch a bunch of grainy, ancient clips of flappers strutting their stuff for the F. Scott Fitzgeralds of the world. When 50/Leviticus talks about his days as “Booboo the Boxer”, they show newsreel-quality footage of a Jack Johnson fight or something. I thought that 50 Cent existed in contemporary times, but I appear to be mistaken according to much of Refuse 2 Die.
3) To fill in the running time in spaces where the filmmakers ran out of animation. The most amusing example of this occurs at the end of the film when 50/Leviticus talks about how he’s finally attained stardom and is loving every second of it: You’re subsequently treated to three solid minutes of shitty digital video of some girls giggling and lightly petting each other while the awful filler beat that permeates the soundtrack oozes into your aural capacity yet again.
A promo image from MTV’s highly-anticipated Balrog expose, True Life: I Wore Rolled-Up Jean Shorts In Street Fighter II.
As far as the interviews (hysterically hyped as “revealing” on the box) go, you’ll find yourself looking forward to seeing actual people talk because that means you’re not watching the animation, but these guys talk more about the ethics of old-school hip-hop, the music industry and Eminem than they talk about 50 Cent. Pops, who appears through an old, crackling, sepia-toned television (this is to remind us that Pops is AN OLD MAN) every single time he speaks, provides us with such insightful pearls of wisdom as “Yeah, I remember him (50) getting sent upstate (to juvenile detention) for three or four months or something like that” right after we’re informed that it was actually seven months. Every single interview is presented within the “virtual world” of the animation, meaning that DMC will be speaking to you while superimposed onto the side of a building. It’s an effect that’s meant to be immersive, but the virtual 3D-animated world of Jamaica, Queens is so uninteresting that you won’t want to be immersed in it. A brief list, if I may, of things that I’d rather be immersed in: Acid, tarantulas, chainsaws and Sarlaac pits.
The animation used to bring the world of 50 Cent alive is a major selling point on Refuse 2 Die, which is a double-edged sword. It’s good that they mention it, because the animation is featured in probably half of the film’s running time. It’s bad that they mention it, because, as I’ve alluded to several times, it’s really, really bad. The urban environments look like that Eminem iPod commercial, only far less interesting or alive. The film has several animated sequences that advance the “plot”, all of which involve the camera uncomfortably jerking around the 3d environments while a cast of shoddily-rendered, hand-drawn characters move back and forth in two or three-frame animations. At one point, 50 and Jam Master Jay are shown nodding their heads to one of 50’s mixtapes; instead of any actual animation, their heads literally move back and forth between two spots as if they were being controlled from behind the screen by a popsicle stick. It’s like watching a combination of South Park and a Tiger handheld game. Another example of our “cutting-edge” animation can be seen when a grieving 50 Cent cries what appears to be a metallic turd at his mother’s funeral. Between the poor comic-style line drawings which comprise the animated characters and the spastic camera movements, the animated stuff falls flat.
While I admire the film’s attempt to provide a fresh, kinetic variation of the traditional biographical documentary, the painfully evident lack of budget fatally undermines the entire project. Refuse 2 Die ends up coming off as a cheap, rushed cash-in on the current wave of 50 Cent/G-Unit product saturation. Refuse 2 Buy!
3 out of 10
Shake that Laffy Taffy, Ursula!
Refuse 2 Die sears your retinas in a relatively-sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. It’s not bad looking at all; the problem is that there’s not an aspect ratio or resolution in existence that could save most of the abysmal animation and art you’ll be witnessing.
6 out of 10
You get the option of a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix here, but it’s far from demo-worthy. It’s a bass-centric mix that will give your low end a workout and not much else.
6 out of 10
Refuse 2 Die boasts a surprisingly decent list of bonus features, but almost all of them are fluff.
If for some insane reason you enjoyed the film’s animation, then you’ll be thrilled to note that you can view them all again at your leisure, sans 50/Leviticus’s voice over, via the “Animation Gallery”. “G-Unit Photo Shoot” will be your favorite DVD special feature of all-time if you have a fetish for close-up video footage of 50 Cent posing and scowling; if you’re normal, then you will of course recognize it as being retarded. The “theatrical” trailer is included, which is great to throw on if you’re really starved for a laugh and want to see a front-runner for Worst Trailer Ever. The “Making of” segments give you another look at the film’s artwork through a storyboard/concept art slideshow. The animated short “Massive Swerve” is a random-ass first-person adventure of a guy who walks around through crowds of people at a club. Our protagonist then demonstrates just how enormous his swerve truly is by getting a blowjob and pissing in an ATM, which are both, naturally, censored on this UNRATED DVD. Seriously, I’m not making this up.
Lastly, but certainly not leastly, you get a commentary! Directors Mike Corbera and Underhill team up with graphic designer/perpetrator of crap Steve Burr and take 80 minutes to essentially say “We didn’t have any budget for this, and 50 didn’t want anything to do with it, so we had to make up a ton of weird shit”. They seem to have done their best within the constraints of the ill-conceived project, but we live in a Bubba Ho-Tep world where low budget doesn’t have to mean low quality.
The central imagery of a stark, black-and-white 50 Cent surrounded by red smoke, tattoo art and “gritty”, scratched-up text tells us that this film keeps it real, although the most risque it gets is 50/Leviticus saying “motherfucker” a lot. Still, it gets the job done, and a film this bad doesn’t really deserve anything more.
5 out of 10
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