Paid in Full (2002 film)

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Paid in Full
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Stone III
Produced by Damon Dash
Brett Ratner
Azie Faison
Steve Rifkind
Written by Matthew Cirulnick
Thulani Davis
Starring Wood Harris
Regina Hall
Kevin Carroll
Esai Morales
Elise Neal
Cynthia Martells
Remo Green
Ron Cephas Jones
Chi McBride
Mekhi Phifer
Narrated by Wood Harris
Music by Vernon Reid and Frank Fitzpatrick
Cinematography Paul Sarossy
Edited by Bill Pankow, A.C.E, Patricia Bowers
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date
October 25, 2002 (2002-10-25)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,090,862[1]

Paid in Full is a 2002 American crime drama film directed by Charles Stone III. It takes place in Harlem in the 1980s. The title of the film is taken from the 1987 album and 1987 song by Eric B. & Rakim. "Paid in Full" is based on three friends Azie "AZ" Faison, Rich Porter, and Alpo Martinez and their professional criminal exploits. The characters Ace (Wood Harris), Mitch (Mekhi Phifer), and Rico (Cam'ron), respectively, are based on these three drug dealers.


Ace (Wood Harris) is a young man from Harlem stuck in a dead end job at a dry cleaning shop. His sister's boyfriend, Calvin (Kevin Carroll), is a local cocaine dealer who tries to lure Ace into the drug trade with promises of fast money and women. Ace resists Calvin's temptations, not caring for his unsophisticated ways. Likewise, Ace's close friend Mitch (Mekhi Phifer) is a flashy, popular drug dealer who exposes Ace to drug dealing lifestyle. When Calvin gets arrested on drug charges, Ace ends up filling his position on the street. This happens after Ace starts getting cocaine from Lulu, one of the customers at the dry cleaners shop. Lulu has a top-quality supply of cocaine which Ace sells on the street at a cheap price, quickly luring away customers from other drug dealers. Ace operates on the mantra that there is plenty of money to go around and that everyone can "live and maintain." While Ace is building up his drug operation, Mitch is arrested for killing a stickup man who robbed one of his workers. When a fight breaks out between Mitch and another inmate, Mitch is aided by East Harlem inmate Rico (Cam'ron) who impresses Mitch by his ferocity and show of solidarity.

Mitch is able to beat his murder charge and both him and Rico join Ace's drug empire. The trio become extremely wealthy, buying foreign cars, jewelery and expensive champagne. Ace continues to more or less stay behind the scenes, while Mitch returns to his flamboyant lifestyle as a popular hustler. Rico is a ruthless enforcer who worries Ace with his overzealous behavior and high-profile lifestyle. When Calvin is released from prison, he tries to regain his position of power on the streets. Ace gives him a job overseeing his old drug spot, but Calvin feels dissatisfied with his menial position. When Ace refuses to let Calvin run his old block, Calvin retaliates by attempting to rob Ace at his Aunt June's (Elise Neal) apartment, holding June and Dora hostage. When Ace is unable to open the safe, June and Dora are executed by Calvin as another associate shoots Ace in the head, leaving him for dead. Despite his wounds, Ace survives as his baby is born around the same time. Feeling the physical and psychological effects of the shooting, Ace decides to quit the drug trade. Rico tries to assuage Ace's concerns by admitting to killing Calvin in retaliation (a flashback shows Rico on a motorbike executing Calvin in his car), as a show of strength of the organization to potential enemies. Ace strongly disagrees with Rico's decision. Mitch understands Ace's perspective that the drug game does not reciprocate any love or generosity. Mitch decides to stay in the drug game because he loves the hustle, comparing himself to professional basketball players that continue to chase glory despite having enough money to retire. Ace eventually decides to let Mitch and Rico take over in his place, vowing to introduce them to the connect.

While Ace is recovering, Mitch's kid brother Sonny is kidnapped for ransom. Mitch goes to Ace for help, as Ace provides him with enough cocaine to pay Sonny's ransom and allow Mitch and Rico to go back to business as usual on the streets. When Ace comes home, he finds his girlfriend Keisha (Regina Hall) in tears. Fearing the worst, Ace believes that Sonny was killed; Keisha informs Ace that it was actually Mitch who was killed. Ace thinks back to a conversation with Mitch explaining that Mitch was supposed to meet up with Rico. A flashback shows Mitch reaching out to Rico for help with Sonny; however, Rico double-crosses Mitch and fatally shoots him twice before executing him with a final shot to the head. Ace eventually meets up with Rico to fine out about Mitch. Rico lies to Ace about his whereabouts that night, not knowing that Mitch had told Ace they were going to meet up the night of his death. Ace settles the issue by giving him the contact to a pair of undercover FBI agents Ace had spoken to and avoided previously.

Rico is arrested and is last seen in custody giving up information on his out-of-town drug connections in Washington D.C. in order to avoid a 25-to-life sentence. He refuses to inform on anyone in Harlem, intending on reclaiming his position when he is eventually released from prison. Sonny's kidnapping and subsequent murder were orchestrated by his own uncle who resented Mitch for not providing him with money and for kicking him out of his family's apartment. Ace manages to retreat from the criminal underworld and makes a new life for himself and his family using diamonds that he had previously found in Lulu's apartment after his death.


Critical reception[edit]

The film received generally mixed reviews from critics, but it gained a cult following.

The movie gained 51% (rotten) on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews.[2] On metacritic the film gathered a score of 49% based on 16 reviews.[3]


The Paid in Full (soundtrack), containing hip hop and R&B music, was released on November 26, 2002 by Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings. It peaked at 53 on the Billboard 200 and 10 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.


  1. ^ "Paid in Full (2002) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 8 December 2017. 
  2. ^ "Paid in Full". Retrieved 8 December 2017. 
  3. ^ "Paid in Full". Retrieved 8 December 2017. 

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