The new cancer drama All Things Fall Apart provoked widespread, richly merited mockery when photos of 50 Cent, looking skeletal and Oscar-hungry, circulated online amid reports that the rapper-turned-actor had lost more than 50 pounds to play a cancer-stricken college football player. The dramatic weight loss earned headlines, but the fact that the 36-year-old actor—who thoroughly looks his age—felt he could convincingly play an athlete in his early 20s says even more about the self-delusion and narcissism behind this unintentionally hilarious vanity project.
In the role he was born not to play, the G-Unit head honcho—who also co-wrote and produced—stars as a hotshot college running back, sure-fire first-round NFL draft pick, and Heisman contender whose rosy progress abruptly halts when he develops a giant cancerous tumor a centimeter away from his heart. He quickly becomes a shell of his former self, shunned by people who used to worship him. And yet his diagnosis and grim condition inexplicably fly under the radar, to the point where he visits a college counselor who glibly tells him the school used to have a football player by his name “with an ego the size of Texas,” not realizing that the hotshot football player and the gaunt, humbled man in front of him are the same person. The fact that the emaciated would-be athlete can barely hold a fork aloft, let alone dash past 250-pound linebackers, does little to discourage father-figure/director Mario Van Peebles from imagining that NFL glory still lies in 50’s future. Finally, everyone is forced to concede that the superstar athlete must reinvent himself in the long shadow of his abandoned dreams. In just one of the film’s many implausible moments, the marble-mouthed 50 redeems himself in the eyes of his family and his community by becoming a spectacularly successful car salesman, in spite of his complete unintelligibility.
All Things Fall Apart’s redemptive arc requires cancer to humble 50 for his arrogance, but the screenplay lacks any humility: It makes him a good-natured superstar revered by his peers, selfless in his play on the field, savvy in his business acumen, and lusted after by women. 50 begins the film as a perpetually grinning blank on top of the world, then abruptly transforms into a mumbly, kicked-around sad-sack with a perpetually furrowed brow. For all its gloriously misguided good intentions and 50’s artistic aspirations, All Things Fall Apart is only marginally more sophisticated in its treatment of cancer than The Room, which treated it as a bizarre aside never to be mentioned again. 50’s guffaw-inducing, gloriously unselfconscious über-melodrama marks a drastic change of pace from his usual blood-splattered, Val Kilmer-assisted direct-to-video action idiocy. But it’s still laughably bad, and 50 remains a rank amateur, no matter how many films he makes, or how preposterously outsized his delusions of grandeur might be.