Saturday, June 17, 2017

Movie Review: Notorious

Notorious tells the story of Biggie Small aka Notorious B.I.G. whose real name is Christopher Wallace. The movie begins with a drive-by shooting that murder the rapper and flashes back to his childhood. He listened to music on the radio and admired the rap groups in the magazines. Though he grew up without a father, his mother Voletta (Angela Bassett) makes sure he succeeds in school. Christopher (Jamal Woolard) grows up amongst the crack dealing streets, learning how the streets run. He is shown briefly in childhood practicing his rhymes and then as a teenager counting his money and changing his clothes after his mother thinks he leaves for school. 

He taunts his teacher and flirts with his girlfriend, finding out she's pregnant. On the corner, they sell crack and spit rhymes, beating a rival in a rap battle. When his mom kicks him out, he gets deeper into the crime, running other dealers and even selling to a pregnant woman. He finds himself in jail, asking his mom for trouble. Bored in prison, he writes out his story in rhymes until his release. Out of prison and needing to earn for his daughter, Biggie Small records his raps and brings them to Sean 'Puffy' Combs (Derek Luke). Puffy sees potential but gets fired before he can give Biggie a chance.

Biggie flirts with Kim Jones (Naturi Naughton) as she passes and they strike up a relationship. When he gets arrested for possession of a firearm, Damion (Dennis L.A. White) takes the charge so that Biggie can pursue his dream. At Howard University, he performs, impressing the crowd, while also running into Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie). His relationship grows with Lil' Kim seeing potential in her. He becomes upset when he finds out his mom is sick. With a check from Puffy, he helps his mom recover. His plan for a hit single is powered by a new beat that at first is ridiculed onto Biggie spits an iconic verse.

With newfound fame, Biggie enjoys the high life and meets Faith (Antonique Smith), marrying shortly after. This relationship sparks controversy with Lil' Kim who is upset to be only treated as an artist and his first child's mother. The rise continued and things were going well until Tupac was ambushed in the elevator lobby of the studio. The East Coast-West Coast rivalry sparks off a new round of controversy. The rap beef with Tupac causes strife between Faith and Biggie. Adding fuel to the fire, Biggie comes out with a song that sounds like it claims responsibility for setting up Tupac.

Shakur's death lessens the heat on the beef but Biggie is then in a car accident. He starts to take stock of his life and his accomplishments, especially after his friend DRock's release from prison. Biggie decides to go back to Los Angeles despite receiving threats. He is shot and killed riding in a car by a drive-by shooter. I missed this movie when it first came out but found it to be entertaining and interesting. I am not aware of the accuracy of the film but remember it receiving a tepid response from audiences at the time. Woolard's performance is charming as the rapper and the story doesn't feel rushed or overly sensationalized. 

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