Paid In Full: Wood Harris
A simple but profound quote by Wood Harris in Paid In Full that will forever live on. The impact of this movie since its release in 2002 cannot be measured. I rewatched this film again over the weekend, and if you are keeping track of the score at home, yes it is aging gracefully as time passes. It may even be time for the film to be viewed as a legitimate great film. No, I’m not talking amongst your homies that list the same three Denzel Washington movies as the pinnacle of classic cinema. (Do I even have to list those three movies?) I’m speaking about the “film snobs” that hate every summer blockbuster film and will parade with praises of pretentious “visionary” movies like The Boondock Saints. Unfortunately for our friends and the supposed avant garde movie buffs, their scope of what is deemed as a great movie is limited and sometimes we can’t rely on those opinions. Which is why I am here. I love this film as much as the next nigga on the block and will also say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an all time classic.
To say I relate to Ace in this movie would be an understatement. First time I watched Paid In Full, I was drawn to his story more than Rico or Mitch. The shy, cool if quirky guy in the neighborhood whom although everyone liked, Mitch would be the first person everyone acknowledged before checking on me. He had the modest if unglamorous job at the cleaners while Mitch falling for the allure of fast money and gaining respect from his peers while doing it. Dingy clothing? Forget about it. Growing up, my first pair of Jordans were handed down to me from my older cousin who didn’t want his pair anymore. And I had to clean them up, just like Mitch’s nephew was doing to his Nike’s.
The moment Mitch got locked up though and Ace began to take control was when you start to see his cool come out. Whereas in many of our favorite crime/hood dramas we see the protagonist in extravagant jewelry, flamboyant cars and loud attire, he was lowkey about his shit. The rolex he eventually copped was never shown outside of his wrist when he wore his jacket. (He even had his hands in his pockets at all times) The gold chain Mitch peeped on Ace when he came home guess what Ace did? He tucked it in underneath his sweater and only smirked after. Ace knew it was a nice piece. That dark navy BMW 635 CSI ride is one of the most underrated cars seen in movies in my opinion and that was his car of choice when he came up. Just like Azie Faison, who the movie is loosely based on. “Live and maintain.”
Another point that made me see Ace was just different from the other kingpins is his demeanor to the hustle game. “Live and maintain” was one of his mottos throughout the film and he stayed true to it and never deviated from it. He compared himself to Scarface and how he was alone. Even when he was dealing with Mitch and Rico, his consciousness of what he was involved in made him realize he was no different from Al Pacino’s character and this gave him the kind of foresight that many in his profession didn’t have. Rico was flashy and got the women for sure, with many of the movie’s most memorable quotes. His short temper however was his achilles heel. His short sightedness didn’t allow him to see Ace was setting him up to the cops. Rico wanted to expand the business to D.C. too quickly without falling back and thinking of a more sound strategy. “Live and maintain”.
Mitch also was about the flair or “the hustle” as he put it. The consummate salesman, he was different from Rico. He had very admirable traits about him and that was why he was well respected from those that knew him. His loyalty to Ace is second to none and Ace made sure to reciprocate that back. Mitch can be viewed as the consigliore to Ace’s boss: the mouthpiece of the entire operation while the boss was the brains of it all. Whatever Mitch said, people followed but at the end of the day, Ace had the final say in things. Mitch recognized the empire Ace built when he got out the bid and fell back when he found out that Ace was handling the business better than he ever did. He played his position as the advisor. Remember Rico wanting to go out to D.C.? Mitch ran the idea by Ace to make sure it was the right decision, but was shot down because it wasn’t the right move to make at the time. Sure enough, it was the smart move, as it was found later undercover feds from D.C. began to approach the crew and Ace saw right away not to trust them so kept his distance. “Live and maintain”.
I always viewed a leader as someone who can influence others in accomplishing an objective by delegating tasks in a way that is coherent to everyone. A leader is well deserving of the big piece of pie, but also knows how to share that piece amongst his or her associates. Ace wasn’t the smooth talker like Mitch was (pause) nor was he rah rah in your face type that got everybody to pay attention like Rico. Despite this, he knew how to get those two to buy into his vision and thus got everyone after to fall in line. Wood Harris, for me at least, is as influential as they come in Paid In Full and it’s time that he should be recognized.
I, for one, appreciate you brother.