Turfseer 30 January Warning: Spoilers 'Notorious' is the story of Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls who became one of the most popular rap artists in the s until he was gun downed at the very young age of Biggie is played by newcomer Jamal Woolard who does a decent job playing Wallace, considering he never acted before. The first 45 minutes of the film are the most interesting as it focuses on Biggie's early career as a drug dealer.
He's constantly arguing with his mother played by the always solid Angela Bassett who finally throws him out of the house after he won't give up his drug-dealing ways. Eventually he lands in jail where he starts writing rap lyrics which he eventually fashions into full-fledged songs in the recording studio.
The era is ably recreated as we're given a sense of how rap music developed during the s and early 90s. After his release from jail, Biggie starts building a reputation as a talented rapper in his Brooklyn neighborhood. When Puffy is fired, Biggie goes back to drug-dealing only to find himself arrested again.
This time however, a friend offers to take the rap on a gun charge and Biggie has a second chance to resume his career. The rest of the movie chronicles Biggie's eventual rise to the top. I was a little uncertain as to how Biggie actually got there. At one point he's 'paying his dues' playing college gigs at places like Howard University. The next thing you know he's got a number one hit record. If one is to believe the screenwriters, despite Biggie's involvement in the violent world of rap music, he was really a big Teddy Bear at heart.
He's a character who can basically do no wrong. Even though he cheats on the three women he's closest to the mother of his child, his wife and Lil Kim, fellow rap artist and lover , they all forgive this Teddy Bear despite his boorish behavior.
Notorious lacks a central external antagonist who Biggie is pitted against throughout the movie. If there is an antagonist, it's got to be Tupac Shakur, the West Coast rapper who had a falling out with Biggie after he was shot outside a NYC recording studio.
There are few dramatic scenes between Biggie and Tupac in Notorious and the relationship is mainly fleshed out through the use of an off-screen narrator. While Biggie admires Tupac as a philosopher and activist, he also perceives him as a loose cannon.
According to Biggie's version, after Tupac was shot for the first time, he became completely paranoid and believed everyone was after him including Biggie. As Biggie tells it, he made attempts to reconcile with Tupac but it never really worked out. Meanwhile the media played up the "East Coast-West Coast rivalry" which may have eventually led to the assassination of both Tupac and Biggie.
The 'rivalry' is explained through a montage sequence which made me feel I was watching a documentary and not a feature film. The second half of Notorious mainly involves Biggie's internal struggles, particularly in the area of becoming a more responsible adult. Again, if you believe the screenwriters, despite acting irresponsibly with women and immersing himself in the thuggish, materialistic world of rap music an involvement in a world which eventually led to his death , Biggie managed to stay 'above the fray'.
The point is made that his second and last album revealed a more 'sensitive' side and that he was turning away from violence right before he died. One gets a feeling that the writers of Notorious have little information as to Biggie's dealings in his behind the scenes business world. Certainly they offer no theories as to who did him in. Instead, we're treated to all the histrionics of his volatile relationships with women which basically proves that he was a 'ladies man' and nothing much else.
By focusing mainly on his relations with women, we only get to see one side of Biggie and I didn't feel this was a complete, rounded picture. Probably the weakest character in the film is Puffy Combs. Since he's one of the film's producers, it's not in his interest to suggest anything controversial about his own character.
Thus, Derek Luke has little to do in this film except act the part of a glorified cheerleader. Notorious touches on all the bases of Christopher Wallace's life. For those unfamiliar with all the details, it's a modestly interesting and somewhat entertaining story.
Nonetheless, the filmmakers chose to place their protagonist on a pedestal. By doing so, they imply that Biggie was detached from the violent world which he was a part of. That somehow he was an unsuspecting victim who had nothing to do with his own demise. Instead of a hagiography, Notorious needed to present more of a balanced portrait but it settled for an excessively sentimental and by the numbers treatment which earns it an average "5" in my book. Was this review helpful?