Cinema pulls rapper's film after life imitates art

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A cinema in Pittsburgh has suspended screenings of the gangsta rap film Get Rich or Die Tryin', starring the rapper 50 Cent, following a gangland-style shooting that left one man dead and a trail of blood on the foyer carpet.

According to police, 30-year-old Shelton Flowers became embroiled in an argument in the men's lavatories shortly after sitting through the film with a female companion. He was shot in the leg near a lift and collapsed near a bank of arcade games. The bullet punctured his femoral artery and he was pronounced dead at a hospital less than an hour later.

The police said Mr Flowers and his assailants knew each other. But they stopped short of saying the incident had been triggered by the film, loosely inspired by 50 Cent's own experience of gun violence on his way to rap superstardom.

"We're treating this as a random incident," the local police chief, Christopher Deasy, said. That did not stop management at the Waterfront multiplex from halting its showings of the film, which has been a sell-out since its opening earlier this week.

The cinema had hired an off-duty police officer as extra security for the film's opening in anticipation of possible trouble. This weekend, three more guards will be posted around the complex to reassure patrons.

Get Rich or Die Tryin' is far from the only film in circulation to feature graphic gun violence - the same multiplex is also showing Jarhead, about trigger-happy marines waiting for action in the Arabian desert during the 1991 Gulf War. But it has touched a cultural nerve because of the association made between gangsta rap and the glamorisation of violence. The opening scene of the movie features a botched armed robbery in which 50 Cent's semi-autobiographical character is shot nine times.

Rather like the critically acclaimed 8 Mile, starring Eminem in a thinly veiled version of himself, Get Rich is both a coming-of-age story and an extended advertisement for the music produced by its star. It was directed by Jim Sheridan, the Irish film-maker previously responsible for My Left Foot and In America.

The critics have been less than tender with Get Rich or Die Tryin', faulting 50 Cent's performance in particular. But that has not deterred crowds of fans all over the United States.

There have been no reports of violence associated with the film anywhere other than the Pittsburgh suburb of West Homestead. Police said Mr Flowers had had run-ins with the law in the past. At the time of his death, he was awaiting trial on charges of gun and cannabis possession, resisting arrest, reckless endangerment and child endangerment.