Paid in Full is 2002 film that was produced by Roc-A-Fella Films and directed by Charles Stone III. It is a film that takes place in Harlem at the height of the Crack Epidemic that hit there during the 1980s. The title of the film is taken from the 1987 album by Eric B. and Rakim. The film shares several cast members with The Wire and has been noted for similarities in the nature of Harris' characters in both productions.
The movie, which is based on a true story, is about a young man who rises to the top of the cocaine industry in Harlem. The protagonist, Ace (counterpart of real life hustler Azie Faison), is played by Wood Harris. At the beginning of the movie, Ace is stuck in a dead end job working in a dry cleaner's shop. His sister's boyfriend, Calvin, is a big time drug dealer who often tries to lure Ace into becoming a part of the drug trade with promises of fast money and glamour. Ace resists these temptations, warning constantly that Calvin's flashy style and audacious method of dealing will get him arrested. When Calvin does get locked up, Ace ends up taking his position on the streets after a chance encounter with Lulu, a Columbian drug dealer. With the help of his friend, Mitch (counterpart of real life hustler, Rich Porter - played by Mekhi Phifer) and their partner and enforcer, Rico (counterpart of real life hustler, Alberto Martinez, otherwise known as "Alpo" - played by Cam'ron), he creates a huge drug empire in Harlem. However - unlike most hustlers, Ace is careful not to draw too much attention to himself and stay, more or less, behind the scenes.
Mitch, Ace's best friend, is very popular and an extremely flashy drug dealer. Mitch does not pressure Ace to become a dealer because he thinks that his friend is not the hustling type. In fact, he humorously tells Ace that he will become the "George Jefferson" of the ghetto, making reference to his job at the dry cleaning shop. Eventually, Mitch gets arrested. During this time, though - Ace has been introduced into the drug game by Lulu. Soon after his Mitch's release, Ace becomes partners with his best friend, realizing he cannot control such a lucrative empire on his own. The two quickly become successful, gaining a reputation worthy of street legends. Soon appears Rico, a recently released inmate who came to Mitch's aid while Mitch was in prison. As a show of appreciation and gratitude, Mitch suggests to Ace that Rico join the team - since they could always use additional "muscle" to bolster their rise to the top. Ace agrees. The trio become extremely well known in Harlem, the center of their operations, as well as locations across New York, Washington D.C. and other areas. Ace, as always, tries to remain quiet with a low profile while Mitch returned to his image as the "rich, pretty boy" gangsta. Rico's reputation, however, is one of a ruthless 'killa' who is always quick to show his loyalty to Ace and Mitch by making an example of anyone that does not pull their weight on the streets.
After their rise. trouble soon finds them. When Calvin is finally released from jail, he tries to regain his position of power in the streets. After Ace gives him a lower-level role on the team, Calvin becomes dissatisfied with the thought of making money only as a result of Ace's generosity. Calvin cannot accept the idea of losing his former territory and clientele to Ace and decides not to partner with Ace if he cannot be one of the leaders of the team. He attempts to rob and kill Ace at his apartment one night and shoots him in several parts of his body, including his head. Ace survives, however, and begins to think it's time to leave the game before he is killed. Nonetheless, Rico kills Calvin in retribution.
A short time later, Mitch's younger brother Sonny is kidnapped. In an attempt to get his brother back, Mitch tries to raise the tremendous ransom the only way he knows how. He asks Ace, who is basically retired, to help him one last time to get a large quantity of drugs - enough to raise sufficient money to pay the ransom. Ace helps Mitch as requested. When Mitch reaches out to Rico for help to sell the drugs and raise the money, Rico takes this as an oppurtunity to establish himself and expand his hustle. He kills Mitch and takes the drugs Mitch intended to sell to rescue Sonny. Soon after Ace is told about what happened to Mitch, Ace realizes that Rico was to meet up with Mitch that same night and might be responsible for Mitch's death. Ace then sets up a meeting between him and Rico interrorgating Rico on what happened between him and Mitch that night, Rico in return answers that he hadn't seen Mitch all day, Ace then realizes that he is lying and settles the score with Rico by giving him the number to two people who turned out to be the FBI. Rico is arrested and is last seen in prison giving up information on his out-of-town connections in Washington D.C., but not on the connections he once had in Harlem, due to his is claim that "When I come home, I'm still gon be the king." Since the ransom was not paid, Sonny is later found dead as well. Later, it is found that Sonny's kindnapping had been setup by his own uncle and was killed by Tommy an accomplice of their uncles who resented Mitch because he would not provide him with money. Ace does manage to get completely out of the drug game and makes a new life for himself and his family.
- Wood Harris plays quiet kingpin Ace in Paid in Full and quiet kingpin Avon Barksdale in The Wire.
- Jamie Hector plays Ace's rival Dunn in Paid in Full and Avon's rival Marlo Stanfield in The Wire.
- Hassan Johnson plays Ace's accompline in the murder of Dunn in Paid in Full and Avon's chief enforcer Wee-Bey Brice in The Wire.
- Tyson Hall plays a drug addict in Paid in Full and recovering drug addict Marvin in the final season of The Wire.
- Derrick Simmons did stunt work on Paid in Full and The Wire.
- Rapper Jim Jones played a criminal in Paid in Full and had an uncredited cameo as a bystander in The Wire episode "Clarifications".