Paid In Full

"Good"

Paid In Full Review


The familiar story told in "Paid In Full," the story of a good ghetto kid seduced into the drug trade with tragic results, covers no new territory. But it's a story told so well -- with veracity, raw compassion, well-drawn characters and strong performances -- that its common cautionary tale feels as compelling as it might have been in the 1980s, when the film takes place and before this type of movie became its own genre.

"Paid" plays as if it were made by people who lived it. People like Ace (Wood Harris), a reticent clerk at a neighborhood dry cleaners who has always been happy to blend into the woodwork and just be a survivor, even as he sees his closest friends becoming flush with cash, clothes and cool cars."That ain't my flow, man," Ace says when his best friend Mitch (Mekhi Phifer) tries to lure him into his small-time drug empire.

But as temptations mount (a local Colombian cartel middleman leaves him a cocaine "tip" in a jacket pocket at the cleaners), power becomes attractive (he'd like to get his sister away from her pimp-dealer boyfriend) and opportunities present themselves (Mitch gets arrested, leaving his street business up for grabs). Ace succumbs, in small increments, to the enticements of what seems like an effortless road to living well.

What we know from the get-go, however, is that Ace meets an ugly -- if not deadly -- fate. The film opens with a scene one year later, when he's "running the neighborhood" but is still easy-going and keeping a low profile. The fresh-from-jail Mitch is his lieutenant, and his biggest problem is a loose-cannon enforcer named Rico (Cam'ron) who draws unwanted attention, flashing his cash and guns around. But being the top dog makes the once-invisible Ace a target for ambitious rivals, and within the first 10 minutes he's ambushed, badly beaten and shot.

The balance of the movie is a flashback, which is a tired narrative technique. But director Charles Stone III (the man behind the "Whassup!" Budweiser ads) largely makes up for it with his otherwise capable command of both the cinematic language and the heart of the story. He exploits rap video clichés (babes and raining money for example) as ironic metaphorical imagery and puts the picture's excellent old-school hip-hop soundtrack to good illustrative use. He captures the unstable nature of the drug market flooded with cocaine in the '80s.

He also culls such faithful performances from his cast that "Paid In Full" lures the viewer into the high-risk, high-reward lifestyle it depicts, just as the lifestyle itself lured Ace. Wood Harris (best known for playing Jimmy Hendrix in a Showtime biopic) shrewdly preserves the essence of Ace's unassuming nature, even as he adopts a pimp walk, a flashy Saab and the power to control his corner of Harlem. Mekhi Phifer (who became a modern Othello in last year's "O") creates a sympathetic balance between struggling father (he has a young son with no mom in sight) and brutal street thug. And Esai Morales ("NYPD Blue") makes a strong impression in a pivotal role as Ace's Colombian connection, a smooth operator and a friendly mentor who lives richly but simply and inconspicuously as the source of the neighborhood's purest coke product.

"Paid In Full," which purports to be based on a true story, falters somewhat in the last act. The violent climax has an auspicious outcome that's hard to buy without more information, the ugliest side of street drugs -- addiction -- is barely broached, and the film's voice-over epilogue is annoyingly vague. (But I can't go into that without giving too much away. Suffice it to say I'd like to know more.)

Cinematically Stone missteps once, by returning to the opening scene in a slow-motion sequence that feels as cheesy as a blaxploitation shootout. We already know what happens here. What's the point of dragging it out at half-speed?

But the film does such a fine job of engulfing you in its world and allying you with its characters' choices, good and ill, that its shortcomings are remembered only as an afterthought.



Paid In Full

Facts and Figures

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th October 2002

Box Office USA: $3.0M

Box Office Worldwide: $3.1M

Distributed by: Dimension Films

Production compaines: Miramax Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 20

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Ace, Cam'ron as Rico, as Mitch, as Calvin, as Pip, as Kiesha, as Lulu, as Cruiser

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.