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paid in full
Click for full sized poster

Paid in Full

Starring Mekhi Phifer, Wood Harris and Cam'ron, Chi McBride, Esai Morales
Screenplay by Matthew Cirulnick and Thulani Davis
Directed by Charles Stone III
no website

IN SHORT: A clearly told love story, for those who speak gangsta. [Rated R for violence, pervasive language, some strong sexuality and drug content.]

Ace (Wood Harris) works in Mr. Pips' (Chi McBride) dry cleaning store, running the counter and running the streets making deliveries. His friend Mitch (Mekhi Phifer) is on the streets, too, but all the little junkie boys come a running to him for good stuff to shoot up or snort down their nasal passages. Mitch thinks Ace the fool for not getting in on the good money but our hero has been strictly by his dad and runs a straight and narrow path. Until he meets Lulu (Esai Morales), neighbor of a customer he makes deliveries too. Lulu has a high class lifestyle and no apparent means of support. It all screams drug dealer, but unlike any street dealer, like Mitch, that Ace knows. Somewhere down the line, Ace finds a huge coke rock in a pair of pants sent in for dry cleaning.

It may be a test. It doesn't matter to Ace who returns said rock to its rightful owner. Said owner tells him to keep it. Said owner will soon disappear from the scene in a less that neat way and Ace, with a ready made calling card in hand makes a proposition to the overlords who once supplied the now departed Lulu. Mitch gets a piece as does a new partner, Rico (Cam'ron). Soon this trio is controlling all the powder in Harlem and this powder brings power and money and women and cars and the need to show it all off for the homies with as much flash as possible. In this particular case, unlike the Spider-Man comic books, with great power comes great greed and the need for more power. Which means more unpleasantness, much of it aimed at the near and dear of any dealer working any street in the confines of this movie.

We figured all that out despite a middle aged white ignorance of rapspeak and the plethora of four letter words that flow throw such language like water. All that, plus enough cultural and music references to build a nice wall between this universe and ours made Paid in Full a difficult flick to sit for. The reason for the film is that the rap community has idolized the real life dealers (called A.Z, Alpo and Richard Porter) in song and legend and one of the survivors, who got his life straight in all user senses of the word, decided to put the story down in a gritty manner to scare the idolatrous ignorant silly. As a movie targeted at those with ghetto experience (which may very well include any dumb kidlet eyebrow deep in gangsta rap) the story is told well enough that the point gets across.

That we are not the target and still got ninety percent of it is a compliment to director Charles Stone III and screenwriters Matthew Cirulnick and Thulani Davis who whipped the original story into coherent shape. Is Paid in Full a movie we'd love the girlfriend to? No. It doesn't cross the barrier strongly enough for us. We get bored with the language and that gets in the way of making good connections with Ace, the good guy gone bad character whose story drives the movie.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Paid in Full, he would have paid . . .


A hard edged flick for Afro-Americans. Planted dead in the center of our ratings system. It's usually the dateflick level, though Paid in Full isn't warm and fuzzy enough to cuddle for it's a well made flick.

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