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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.

Paid in Full
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCharles Stone III
Produced byDamon Dash
Brett Ratner
Azie Faison
Steve Rifkind
Written byMatthew Cirulnick
Thulani Davis
StarringWood Harris
Mekhi Phifer
Narrated byWood Harris
Music byVernon Reid and Frank Fitzpatrick
CinematographyPaul Sarossy
Edited byBill Pankow, A.C.E, Patricia Bowers
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
October 25, 2002 (2002-10-25)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,090,862[1]



Ace (Wood Harris) is a young man in the Harlem ghetto 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 impresses Ace with his expensive automobiles and jewelry. 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 cocaine. 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 and gets more product 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 (Cam'ron) 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. The trio become extremely wealthy, buying foreign cars, jewelry and expensive champagne. Ace continues to more or less stay behind the scenes, while Mitch returns to his lifestyle as a popular hustler. Rico is a ruthless enforcer who worries Ace with his overzealous, high-profile behavior.

One day Ace finds Lulu dead in his apartment. He collects what remains of Lulu's supply and finds some diamonds hidden in Lulu's closet. He takes these to Lulu's drug partners to convince them to keep doing business with Ace. When Calvin is released from prison, Ace gives him a job overseeing his old drug spot, but Calvin feels dissatisfied with his marginal 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 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 in retaliation 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 vows to introduce Mitch to his drug supplier once he fully recovers.

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 resume business. When Mitch brings the cocaine to Rico, he kills Mitch and robs him out of greed. When Ace asks Rico about his whereabouts that night, Rico lies, 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 some of the diamonds that he had found in Lulu's apartment.


Critical receptionEdit

The film received generally mixed reviews from critics, but it has gained a strong cult following amongst African-American audiences over the years.

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.

External linksEdit