Paid in Full (2002 film) - Wikipedia

Paid in Full
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCharles Stone III
Written byMatthew Cirulnick
Thulani Davis
Azie Faison (earlier screenplay)
Produced byDamon Dash
Brett Ratner
Azie Faison
Steve Rifkind
StarringWood Harris
Mekhi Phifer
Narrated byWood Harris
CinematographyPaul Sarossy
Edited byBill Pankow, A.C.E, Patricia Bowers
Music byVernon Reid and Frank Fitzpatrick
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
October 25, 2002 (2002-10-25)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.1 million[1]

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


Ace is a young man living with his mom and sister in the Harlem ghetto working a dead-end job at a dry cleaning shop. His sister Dora’s boyfriend, Calvin, is a successful cocaine dealer while Ace's close friend Mitch is a flashy, popular drug dealer. Despite both of them promising a life of easy money, expensive cars and women, Ace decides to live a law-abiding life. While at work, Ace finds some cocaine in one of his customers’ pants. The customer, Lulu, is a cocaine supplier who lets Ace keep the drug. When Calvin gets arrested on drug charges, Ace runs into one of his customers and easily sells him the cocaine for $100. Impressed, Ace goes back to Lulu for more cocaine to sell.

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 starts wholesaling his product to other dealers in the neighborhood, believing everyone can make money and be happy. Meanwhile, 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 who impresses Mitch by his ferocity and show of support. Mitch is able to beat his murder charge and both him and Rico join Ace's drug empire when released from prison. The trio become wealthy, buying foreign cars, jewelry and expensive champagne. Ace maintains a low profile, Mitch returns to his life as the popular hustler while Rico is a ruthless enforcer who worries Ace with his overzealous, high-profile behavior.

When Calvin is released from prison, Ace agrees to give him product to sell in his old drug spot, but Calvin quickly becomes dissatisfied with what he feels is a marginal position. When Ace refuses to let Calvin run his old block, Calvin retaliates by attempting to rob Ace at his Aunt June's 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 girlfriend Keisha gives birth to his baby the same night. Feeling the physical and psychological effects of the shooting, Ace decides to quit the drug trade.

Rico tries to assuage Ace's concerns by revealing that he killed Calvin to show potential enemies that the organization is strong. Ace strongly disagrees with Rico's initiative and remains steadfast in his position to retire. 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 decides to let Mitch and Rico take over, vowing to introduce Mitch to his drug supplier.

While Ace is recovering, Mitch's kid brother Sonny is kidnapped for ransom. Mitch reaches out to Ace who provides him with enough cocaine to pay Sonny's ransom and allow Mitch and Rico to resume business. Mitch enlists Rico to help sell the cocaine to pay the ransom, but Rico instead kills Mitch and steals the cocaine. Suspicious, Ace questions Rico who claims he had not seen Mitch the day he was killed. Ace knows he's lying and settles the issue by giving him the contact to a pair of undercover FBI agents he had spoken to and avoided previously. Rico is arrested and is last seen in custody giving up information on his 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 retreats from the criminal underworld and makes a new life for himself and his family using diamonds that he previously found in Lulu's apartment.


Critical reception[edit]

The film received generally mixed reviews from critics, gaining a 53% (rotten) rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 43 reviews[2] and a score of 49% on Metacritic based on 16 reviews.[3] However, it has gained a strong cult following amongst hip-hop fans over the years.


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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Paid in Full (2002) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  2. ^ "Paid in Full". Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  3. ^ "Paid in Full". Retrieved December 8, 2017.

External links[edit]