Notorius

  • Year:2009
  • Rating:MA
  • Director:George Tillman Jr.
  • Cast:Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, Anthony Mackie, Jamal Woolard
  • Release Date:March 12, 2009
  • Distributor:20th Century Fox
  • Running time:123 minutes
  • Film Worth:$7.50
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

“…a pretty standard biopic…”

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You don't have to be a hip hop fan to be intrigued by the sad saga of the rapper Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, aka The Notorious B.I.G. A New York ghetto kid with no apparent future, he was mentored by Sean ("Puffy") Combs, became a huge star at twenty, and was murdered in 1997 at the age of just 24. We know most of this from the word go; Notorious is in large part a backstory about Biggie's coming of age. It's also something of a whitewash. Sure, Biggie (Jamal Woolard) is shown dealing crack and treating his "bitches" insensitively, but the broader portrayal is of a big-hearted ingenue, and it somehow fails to ring true. So does the implication that he was in any way remarkable or unique: almost everything that Biggie says is woefully inarticulate and gormlessly delivered. His lyrics, however, are a cut above, and so Combs (Derek Luke) assures him that, "You can be the average nigger from Brooklyn, or you can rap about the average nigger from Brooklyn".

Though never especially moving, Notorious is funny in places, and mildly interesting in its exploration of the East Coast/West Coast feud, in which Biggie and Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie) were hapless pawns or protagonists (depending on whom you believe). But, though Biggie's mother Voletta (Angela Bassett) could be forgiven for saying, "With his life, he proved that no dream is too big", it's a bit much to expect us to agree with her.

Notorious is a pretty standard biopic, and is probably largely compromised. If you've never seen Nick Broomfield's excellent 2002 doco Biggie And Tupac, you'd be better served hunting that down instead.

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