TV Review: 'Power'

Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson lives by the word of Scarface's Tony Montana, as channeled by Jay Z: "Say hello to the bad guy." During the past decade, he has racked up No. 1 records and multimillion-dollar endorsements as rap's giddy villain. He has made enemies of Jay Z, Rick Ross, Beyoncé, members of his G-Unit crew, even his own children. And it's not just an act: This month, while onstage at WQHT (Hot 97) New York's Summer Jam, 50 smiled, performing while an adversary was robbed just a few feet away.

It's too bad his real-life character is more interesting than the approximation he helped create for TV audiences. New Starz series Power, executive-­produced by 50 (who also plays a supporting character in later episodes), is his story repeated in yet another form. In the pilot episode, which aired June 7, Ghost (Omari Hardwick), a club owner and drug lord seemingly molded after 50, has problems. He shoots a kid through the face, then uses that gory memory to fuel particularly explicit sex the next morning. Trust issues loom: He's reconnecting with an ex-girlfriend (Lela Loren), a U.S. attorney investigating a drug kingpin she doesn't know she has just gotten drinks with. It's like Breaking Bad, only so on the nose that the finger's poking brain.

Anti-heroes have choked cable in recent years. While Power aspires to be HBO quality, with Ghost as the new Tony Soprano, this lands somewhere on the Cinemax dial, and not just because of the gratuitous sex scenes - plural. Everything is dumbed down, even the way a nightclub works. Ghost says, "We stay in business if we keep the music hot, the women hot and make it damn near impossible to get in this f---in' door." It's amazing that a cartoon - of New York, of crime, of nightlife, of 50 Cent - could end up so bland.


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