Paid in Full
||We step back to the streets of Harlem in the mid-1980′s for this film, based upon a true story, and get an inside view into the life of drug dealers, who under different circumstances might have gone to college and climbed the corporate ladder. Based on a true story.
Living large, eating Chinese take out, chased with French champagne, Mitch (Mekhi Phifer) and his homeboys have plenty of cash from their drug business. Ace (Wood Harris) is reasonably content working for minimum wage at a dry cleaners owned by Pip (Chi McBride), and he’s able to resist the temptation of drug dealers trying to recruit him from behind the counter. But when he makes a delivery to Lulu (Esai Morales), he gets a glimpse of the good life, with a luxury apartment, fancy clothes, cars and women at your beck and call.
Ace sees Calvin (Kevin Carroll) bring in $100 a pop for each dope sale and when he goes to jail, Ace moves in and picks up his business. Soon he’s the MAN and when Calvin and Mitch get out of jail, a mini drug war breaks out. Mitch’s best friend Rico (Cam’ron) brings the situation full circle, to the point that when Ace learns the `real deal,’ he has the option to move past his drug days because his debts are “paid in full.”
Self-image is often related to clothes, cars, perceived respect, and sex. If one looks in the mirror and finds the right mixture of items for their station in life, they can reflect with pride. When the choice is working for chump change and riding the bus, or driving a new Saab drop-top with gold wheels and smiling as you strut¾with no social strata in-between¾it can become an easy decision.
“Paid in Full” has the feeling of a ghettoized “Godfather,” where dirty money eventually is used to get into legitimate businesses. One group of gangsters is uptown, older white men, who can just as easily pass as denizens of corporate America. And in the hood the gangsters are young men with dark brown skin, who sport gold chains and have drug money written all over them.
The acting is excellent, and although the film is rated R, it’s a hard R because the language is very rough and the violence, while no worse than a normal gangster film, conveys an added feeling of intensity because of the character development accomplished by director Charles Stone III. “Paid in Full” has a roughness to it, reminiscent of the Hughes Brother breakthrough film, “Menace to Society.” There is a brighter outlook here, acknowledging that while you can get caught in the quicksand of the criminal life, with a strong will and a little luck, you can climb out of it. When you are incarcerated your choices are limited. Other than that, we always have a choice. What we do with it affects our future more than what others decide for us. There is a way out.
Starring: Mekhi Phifer, Wood Harris, and Esai Morales