Saturday, September 17, 2011

Urbanworld FF: All Things Fall Apart

The Urbanworld Film Festival is a showcase for filmmakers and actors of color, presented at the AMC 34th Street in New York City. For more information on the festival and to see the full 2011 schedule of films, visit the website.

Director Mario van Peebles
All Things Fall Apart, the recently-retitled film from Mario van Peebles starring rapper-turned-actor Curtis Jackson, AKA 50 Cent, is about a college football star forced to not only abandon the game when he is stricken with cancer, but to reassess his entire future. 50 Cent co-wrote and co-produced the movie.

I know very little about 50 Cent. I know he's from my neck of the woods in Queens, and that he got shot a number of times either prior to or during his rap career, but other than that I couldn't identify any one of his songs to save my life. I came into this movie willing to give him a chance as an actor, however, even though I wasn't convinced he was much of one. And to his credit, he came to it with a remarkable level of commitment. I suspect he always was physically fit, but as a football star, he's really built - and then, according to MVP in the Q-and-A after the film, he went on a liquid diet and lost a fair amount of weight in order to show the ravages of cancer on his body. As a result, he does look like he's suffering and in pain.

A dramatic weight loss for a role, however, does not turn 50 Cent into Christian Bale. Without having seen any of his other films, I'd be willing to bet that this is his best performance. He cries on cue, at least. Ultimately, however, I didn't believe him. His range is still painfully limited; his face is wooden when it should be expressive and his voice tends to remain at the same level. In fact, something about his voice is off-putting when he acts; you can tell he hasn't been formally trained as an actor, unlike someone like Dustin Hoffman, whose voice also seems off-putting at first. 50 Cent gives it a game effort - there was a moment or two in which I wanted to believe him - but he still doesn't quite reach that level.

Co-writer, co-producer and star 50 Cent, with Van Peebles
The rest of the movie follows many of the cliches you'd expect in an inspirational sports movie: arrogant hero is humbled and learns a life lesson, family torn apart over uncertainty of the future, brainy brother/brawny brother sibling rivalry, etc. MVP explained afterwards that they wanted to show young black males who idolize rappers like 50 Cent that sports and music are not the only path to success, and that if that dream fails, it's necessary to have a fallback plan that doesn't involve drug dealing. A laudable goal, to be sure, and there's only one scene that comes across as preachy, in which MVP, as 50 Cent's stepfather, lays it all out for him.

MVP, in attendance with his filmmaker father Melvin van Peebles as co-ambassadors of the Urbanworld Film Festival, talked about independent film in general and the need for quality black films to reach people, not just through better distribution, but through word of mouth as well.


Previously from the Urbanworld Film Festival:
Brooklyn Boheme
Love Arranged


  1. If I'm reading this review correctly, while Mario is talking about quality black films reaching a better audience, that this movie in particular is not really one of those that should.

    Although I am not surprised by this as this looks like Mario was just brought into direct and give this movie more respect than being a second project from 50 Cent and Brian Miller.

    Brian Miller has also made a film with former professional wrestler Batista. Who is no The Rock, nor is he a Roddy Piper.

    Mario has definitely delivered so amazing films in the past though and I am sure will in the future.

    That is if I read your review correctly.

  2. Well, I think fans of 50 Cent will definitely appreciate it. I've never seen any of his other movies, so I can only speculate as to how much growth he may have achieved as an actor. And I believe showing him SPECIFICALLY play a character who legitimately grows as a person has some value. Just don't try and compare this film with 'Jerry Maguire.'

  3. What's quite fascinating is to really explore Curtis Jackson's career as an actor. You'd think with his on set experience he'd learn enough to be someone who would impress more than a 50 Cent fan. He should really by now just be a respectable actor... unless he just doesn't have it to be more than passable.

    He's been in the presence of and been directed by or acted right alongside the likes of Jim Sheridan, Irvin Winkler, Terrance Howard, Robert DeNiro, Val Kilmer, Bruce Willis, etc.

    At this point he'd be a name you'd think would be like "sweet, that guy is great"... obviously people think he is though, he keeps getting work.

  4. I'd say he gets work because he's 50 Cent the famous rapper, not so much because he's any great actor, but I do give him credit for trying to grow as an actor, and now as a writer as well. And again, this is coming from someone who's never seen him act before, so take that for what it's worth.

  5. This film doesn't really sound like my thing but I want to see more of Mario Van Peebles' work because I really loved BADASSSS and I'm not sure what else to check out. Do you have any recommendations?

    It's cool you got to see him and Melvin Van Peebles speak, though! This sounds like a great film festival.

  6. It was only Mario that spoke; Melvin was a late arrival.

    To be honest, I've not seen many of Mario's films, but I'd wager his best is still 'New Jack City,' a kind of neo-blaxploitation flick with Wesley Snipes. I'd check that one out for sure.


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