32 user 25 critic

Paid in Full (2002)

1:10 | Trailer
A young man from Harlem, forced to cope with the 1980s drug scene, builds an illegal empire, only to have a crisis of conscience.


Charles Stone III


Azie Faison Jr. (earlier screenplay), Austin Phillips (earlier screenplay) | 2 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Wood Harris ... Ace
Mekhi Phifer ... Mitch
Kevin Carroll ... Calvin
Esai Morales ... Lulu
Chi McBride ... Pip
Cam'ron ... Rico
Remo Greene Remo Greene ... Sonny
Cynthia Martells ... Dora
Elise Neal ... Aunt June
Regina Hall ... Kiesha
Joyce Walker Joyce Walker ... Janet Woods (as Joyce Walker Joseph)
Ron Cephas Jones ... Ice
Nelson Tynes ... Wedge
Karen Andrew Karen Andrew ... Cakes
Pedro Salvín Pedro Salvín ... Columbian Man #1 (as Pedro Salvin)
Learn more

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Ace is an impressionable young man working for a dry cleaning business. His friend, drug dealer Mitch goes to prison. In an unrelated incident, he finds some cocaine in a pants pocket. Soon, Ace finds himself dealing cocaine for Lulu. Via lucky breaks and solid interpersonal skills, Ace moves to the top of the Harlem drug world. Of course, unfaithful employees and/or rivals conspire to bring about Ace's fall. Written by Ken Miller <wkmiller704@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The American Dream... Their way.


Action | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, pervasive language, some strong sexuality and drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Wood Harris and Hassan Johnson would later go on to start in the HBO series "The Wire" as Avon Barksdale (Harris) and Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice. See more »


When Mitch and Ace are talking in the red BMW if you look at the background as they are driving by you can see what appears to be a 90s model Ford Explorer and also a second generation Nissan Pathfinder in front of it. See more »


Calvin: I just made enough money to bake biscuits for the projects.
See more »


Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Hood Movies (2014) See more »


Keep Risin' to the Top
Written by Doug E. Fresh (as Douglas Davis)
(Entertaining Music BMI)
Performed by Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew
Courtesy of Dayna Records, Ltd.
See more »

User Reviews

Lies, drugs, money and betrayals in real life (the movie is based on a true story)...
15 May 2005 | by jpschapiraSee all my reviews

Charles Stone III knows where to put his characters and how to handle them. He knows where he wants to tell his stories because he has filmed in similar places in his movies. He knows about directing actors, about keeping the spectator focused on the film…His writers know about the way the characters talk, and about creating an interesting story that comes from real life so the viewer doesn't get bored…The team knew what they were doing messing with "Paid in Full".

This piece comes in the groove of the movies we see from time to time about life in the neighborhood ("hood"), black people and their relationships, money problems, hard life, "this is how we do it here" and the other stuff…Phrases and situations like this are all over this film; combined with an appropriate sense of reality and personality.

There wouldn't be success in these movies if it wasn't for the characters. They're so important because they have the responsibility of making the story different. It's always the same things, what usually happens; but the characters are the ones that change and we get to know the life of every one of them. And that's probably the magic the movie achieves, because it's about these raw-written, really developed and peculiar characters. It's about the way they are talking, saying "my n...", "this n...", "my man" and lots of other expressions. It's about changes in a place that seems to be the same all the time, from the outside; but it's different from the inside. Changes that occur because of (and I come back because it's the way it is) the characters.

The movie starts as many others these days, giving a glance of the present. Quick, simple, for you to contemplate a character bleeding as he sees (or imagines) notes falling from the sky. Then we are taken to the past; to see what happened before the "glance": in the beginning. Like most of the times, the situations in the past take more time of the film than the ones in the present. I won't mention anything about these situations that involve, among other things, a guy who worked in a dry cleaner but then became the king of money and drugs; another guy who had the money to help his family and to buy nice things before he screwed up, a guy who is fascinated with money and can't control it; the women that celebrate or suffer for the men's actions.

Wood Harris plays Ace, the one who tells the story; and there's a reason why he tells it: in his story things will go right or wrong to the people, but they will all experience something because everything is connected. Harris finds the perfect note for the role, with the correct tone of voice each time he's saying something, and the mix of innocent and intelligent looks. I saw him in "Hendrix" so I recognized his face; but this is another performance by a promising actor. Mekhi Phifer consolidated his name in Hollywood long ago. He shocked me with his role in the powerful "O" and I couldn't recognize him as Future in "8 mile". He adds up another powerful performance to his list as Mitch; we'll be seeing Mekhi around. Newcomer in the acting scene, Cam'Ron, screams too much and puts arrogant faces, and I can't know if he's doing it right because I haven't seen him before. He didn't seem out of place, but it was kind of awkward. I should also mention Chi McBride wandering around the scenes with a lot of style. The rest of the cast (female and male and younger), achieved amazingly by pros Kerry Barden, Billy Hopkins and Suzanne Smith (experienced in casting people for films of this type), accomplish decent performances just to match everything with the story.

What's left for director Charles Stone III is to give some revealing and profound shots in the movie's most dramatic scenes, lead his actors to their glory and generate a realistic environment that traps anyone who sees it. The film editing is also remarkable. All work of the team, messing with the film.

Because the characters in the film mess with each other, and it's a messy film, you don't know why Ace keeps seeing notes falling from the sky, and from where he is telling the story he narrates. We just listen to it; but in some way the movie could be also messing with us.

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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

25 October 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Paid in Full See more »

Filming Locations:

New York, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,328,789, 27 October 2002

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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