Vibe Magazine author, Kris Ex, wrote an article in October 2002 titled “Bad Fellas” that caught my attention. “Without ever picking up a microphone, three kids from Harlem laid down the blueprint for mainstream hip hop culture, even as they courted self-destruction. Though these kingpins never formed an official crew, their stories are interwoven like a plait. At 12, Rich, who grew up in West Harlem, was dealing marijuana and a fake-hash concoction. AZ, who worked across the street from where Rich hustled, stashed Rich’s drugs and guns at his dry-cleaning job, and eventually partnered up with him. Alpo, who came from East Harlem, began his life in crime sticking up Dominican drug dealers. A magnet for the ladies and the uncontested live wire of the bunch, Alpo videotaped his sexual conquests and performed block-long wheelies on his motorcycles, wreaking havoc.” The lives of these three men: Azie “AZ” Faison, Richard Porter, and Alberto “Alpo” Martinez inspired the production of Roc-A-Fella Films 2002 American crime drama “Paid in Full” directed by Charles Stone III. “Paid in Full” expresses the story of a young man who rises to the top of the cocaine industry in Harlem.
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The main character, Ace, who is played by Wood Harris, is stuck in a dead end job working in a dry cleaner’s shop. His sister’s boyfriend, Calvin, is a big time drug dealer who often tries to lure Ace into becoming a part of the drug trade with promises of fast money and glamour. Ace resists these temptations, warning constantly that Calvin’s flashy style and audacious method of dealing will get him arrested. When Calvin does get locked up, Ace ends up taking his position on the streets after a chance encounter with Lulu, a Dominican drug dealer. With the help of his friend Mitch, who is played by Mekhi Phifer, and their partner and enforcer Rico, who is played by Cam’ron Jiles, he creates a huge drug empire in Harlem. However, unlike most hustlers, Ace is careful not to draw too much attention to himself and keeps him. To me the movie is motivational from the business stand point; it also has good energy, is well-acted, and tells a true story in a familiar way.
It shows some of the same themes that Brian De Palma’s “Scarface” portrayed as well as some of the highlighted scenes from that movie which are viewed by the characters in this one. The storyline is well-known to different things that most unfortunate people in that time may have been faced with such as poverty, success, riches, and then death or jail. This plot describes in vivid details the different challenges one is faced with, when breaking the law is your only source of income. Ace realized it is impossible for him to miss seeing the good wealth of selling drugs on the crooked streets of Harlem, he then learns that there is money to be made and being a delivery man for Mr. Pip’s Cleaners was not going to make him the kind of money he wanted. When he started to get a taste of that real fast money as they called it, Ace whole dementia changed and he became one with the drug game.
Overall I believe that “Paid in Full” is a well-rounded movie that shows you how everything is not always what it seems and that loyalty should always come before royalty. Coming from New Orleans and knowing about the drug game that I lost a cousin and a best friend to, I understand the mentality of the characters. It taught me that money can really change everything and that people will change on you based on their own selfish ways. I would recommend this movie to everyone I know, because you can learn a lot form it. I really love the fact that is not all about drugs and that it based on a true story. I feel that everyone who watch this movie will feel the same way I do about it.