Set in the early 1980s, this entry in the African-American urban gangster genre puts character development in the front seat for a change as it rolls through the Harlem streets on its usual rise-and-fall route. Ace (Wood Harris) starts out a laundry de......more
Set in the early 1980s, this entry in the African-American urban gangster genre puts character development in the front seat for a change as it rolls through the Harlem streets on its usual rise-and-fall route. Ace (Wood Harris) starts out a laundry delivery guy, but thanks to a chance encounter with a Latin coke dealer (Esai Morales), he quickly works his way to the top of a drug empire. Mitch (Mekhi Phifer) is his more extroverted, colorful pal, the "born hustler" whose bravado hides a tragic family life. For a while the money just keeps rolling in and everyone's happy, but then comes the inevitable turn to tragedy, heralded by the arrival of the brash, trigger-happy Rico (rapper Cam'ron in his screen debut). A sensitive script and moody direction by Charles Stone III allows PAID IN FULL to sidestep a lot of the cliched glamour of similar films. The violence is realistically depicted, and the ultimate emptiness and paranoia of the lifestyle is allowed to manifest slowly through a nice, low-key performance by Harris. Roc-a-Fella mogul Damon Dash produced, based on the true story of Harlem drug lords he remembers from his childhood, one of whom even served as a technical advisor.
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