Parents' Guide to

Paid in Full

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Violent crime drama about drug dealer has constant cursing.

Movie R 2002 97 minutes
Paid in Full Poster Image

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What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: Not yet rated
Kids say: Not yet rated

The low-budget feel to the movie serves it well. It heightens the grit of the story and gives space to the talented actors to bring these characters to life. It makes up for overly familiar tropes: drug dealing as one of the only ways to be successful in the ghetto, the Goodfellas "looking back" voice-over. As Ace, Wood Harris brings the same low-key cool that helped make Avon Barksdale such an unforgettable character in The Wire. This space given to the actors allows each character to stand out and be memorable, no matter if they are central to the story or on the periphery.

The time and place -- Harlem in the mid-'80s -- is brought to life in a way that feels real and not heavy-handed. When Mitch tries to teach his younger brother the fine art of caring for his new white tennis shoes and how to lace the shoelaces, for instance, it's worth more than a dozen obvious '80s pop culture references. The ascendance of rap and the ascendance of crack cocaine at the time are a part of the movie, but they don't overwhelm like they would in a movie less secure with the story itself. There's a lot of faith in the story and the actors in Paid in Full, a quality in movies, and it works.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: October 25, 2002
  • On DVD or streaming: April 26, 2018
  • Cast: Mekhi Phifer, Wood Harris, Chi McBride
  • Director: Charles Stone III
  • Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors
  • Studio: Miramax
  • Genre: Drama
  • Topics: Friendship, History
  • Run time: 97 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: Violence, pervasive language, some strong sexuality and drug content.
  • Last updated: June 1, 2023

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