Projections - Movie Reviews

Paid in Full

Paid in Full

This urban, hip-hop gangsta flick from Charles Stone III centers on an innocent nicknamed either Lucky or Ace (Wood Harris) in mid-80's Harlem.  Stone, who has built his reputation on the Budweiser "Whassup!" commercials, gives Paid in Full a gritty look into ghetto life during fiscal highs during the Reagan administration.  This fragmented, violent escapade with a producing credit for Brett Ratner, director of Red Dragon, is a flashy, but rote tale with its title cognizant of where drug trafficking ultimately leads.

Stone's small-screen styles also ape the music video strides taken the swaggering "Belly" produced by rap empire kingpin Master P.  Some swift, vivid montages display the metamorphosis of Lucky from delivery man as a cover to drug kingpin.  And, Paid in Full darkly insinuates the harsh reality of what happens in the ghetto from its opening as Stone is satisfied with taking sizable temporal jumps.

Stone lets things ride a course of ambition, greed, two-timing, and a shocking burglary.  It adds up to tough-minded, predictable cautionary tale pumped-up with Harlem angst.

Harris' uneven portrait is more compromised by the narrative and Stone's panache in revealing the effect of the mores back in the days when cocaine affected Harlem.  While Kevin Carroll is edgy as the lanky Calvin, once a drug lord, he can't really impress like the braided Phifer (Clockers) whose pizzazz is waned by a flow that plagues many charismatic drug dealing types.  Cam'Ron comes off well enough for his fans in high-spirited, unpredictable fashion.

As a gangly kid turns dirty and vicious with uncertainty, Paid in Full refrains from making the escalating difficult images too unbearable before the dire denouement.  More than money falls here as "The Price Is Right" echoes the sad plight of many young impressionable black men who thought they were doing the right thing.

Paid in Full

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