Paid In Full: formulaic urban drama

    Before I went into the screening of “”Paid in Full,”” I hoped the film would shine on a different angle of ghetto life. What I received was a standard story of a plunge into darkness, followed by redemption. The movie focuses on Lucky (Wood Harris), a quiet teenager who works at a local dry cleaning store, and captures his evolution into a drug-dealing kingpin.

    While watching the movie, I was somewhat reminded of a previous flick I’d seen some time ago: “”Goodfellas.”” “”Paid in Full”” includes the obligatory psycho in Rico (Cam’ron), who is the Joe Pesci in this film. Rico is way too flamboyant for Lucky’s style, but is kept around anyway because he protects Lucky’s interests. He also has an amusing quirk: He shows off his homemade porn at the hangouts he, Lucky and the flashy Mitch (Mekhi Phifer) frequent.

    Another movie that parallels “”Paid in Full”” is “”Blow.”” There were several shots of excessive amounts of cocaine and money in both movies. One of the differences between them, however, was how the characters’ personalities were symbolized using money. Lucky’s world literally rained money at key times of the movie — one at his highest point and one at his lowest. It is an effective portrayal of the benefits and consequences of what the Harlem folk in the movie refer to as “”The Game.””

    While the arc of the movie was standard, the movie emphasized the influence the surrounding environment has on a person. While Lucky may have not started out as a wheeling and dealing drug dealer, he turned into one — and how could he not have? He was poor, while everyone around him was bringing in the dough; blinded by the money, he took the step into the criminal lifestyle and enjoyed his American dream.

    The director of this film, Charles Stone III, created the “”Wassup?”” commercials for Budweiser, so I had a few doubts about his legitimacy in helming an actual feature. It was a big surprise when the movie turned out to be competently made with the depths of the characters adequetly explored. He portrays the misfortune of Lucky being ghettocized by his neighborhood and the twisted idea of the American Dream.

    Paid In Full

    ***

    Staring Wood Harris, Mekhi Phifer and Cam’ron,

    In Theaters Oct. 25

    Rated R

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