Reviews

Review: Notorious

Winston "Stone" Ford 01/16/2009 5 Comments

Notorious
3-5

I remember back in the day, sitting at my high school cafeteria when some random dude came up to me and said the following:

“What side are you on? East Coast or West Coast?”

I was taken back by question. I went to a majority white school in Alabama, far removed from New York and LA. And even in this small Catholic school, people were obsessed with the media created circus that was thousands of miles away.

Naturally however, I chose the East Coast, not because I didn’t like the laid back tunes of the West, but because of the deep and lyrical rhymes of Biggie Smalls. There was a period when I listened to Ready to Die from start to finish, every night. The album was just perfect. It painted a picture of an overly complex man, who had constant thoughts of suicide and balanced the love of his mother with violence, sex, and drugs. Instead of the straight ahead gangsta rap of the West Coast, Biggie was a multidimensional storyteller, and one of the last rappers of his time to craft such a voice.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about his movie, Notorious. The movie is as by the numbers as they come. Every event is glossed over and oversimplified to the point that it becomes less like a biopic, and more like the screenwriters just pulled up Biggie’s Wikipeida page for writing ideas. The most poignant segments of the movie–Biggie’s childhood– were addressed in less than 20 minutes, which was a shame. Although the filmmakers showed Biggie’s strong connection with his mother, the film still lacked the depth of similar movies like 8 Mile and Get Rich or Die Tryin’–movies that focused extensively on domestic upbringings to give reasons why the main character is the person he is. If I were writing this screenplay, my whole motivation for writing would revolve around one simple question–what would encourage this dude to pen the track “Suicidal Thoughts?”

Notorious does none of that. I’m not saying its a bad movie–it entertaining and has its moments, which are spliced with equal parts drama and humor–but its not the movie that it could’ve been. The acting was adequate: Gravy does a so-so impression of BIG, but Derek Luke looks nothing like Puffy and I think I look more like Tupac than Anthony Mackie. Lil’ Kim (played by the beautiful and underrated Naturi Naughton) has a right to be mad–her parts come off almost as an afterthought, and Faith Evans’ role as the wifey/true love is played up more than what the truth might be.

The film’s more interesting segments revolved around the treatment of the East Coast/West coast beef, and more specifically the Biggie/Tupac fiasco. The movie played the feud as silly and over blown and portrayed Tupac and Biggie as best friends, with the rift in the relationship only coming when Tupac went paranoid when he was shot outside that Manhattan Studio in November 1994. Even though the flick did not pursue any blame or conspiracy theories, it does show Biggie receiving anonymous phone calls when he was on the West Coast, which sparked my interest.

All in all, Notorious is a decent flick that will appease fans and event spark interest in the late B.I.G.’s music from those who are unfamiliar with the rapper. Unfortunately, it lacks some of the depth that would make this a truly superior movie.

Have you seen the movie? What do y’all think?

  • Belve

    I, also being from Alabama, remember being asked that question. The choice for me at the time was to choose The Monty Brewster (None of the Above) pick.

    Luckily the South musically was making leaps and bounds at the time, and though not quite there yet, it feel like the golden days of hip-hop.. When it was for the love and fun of it.

    I am debating on when to go see this since its like brick cold out. Thanks for the write up, it might help me decide.

  • Pingback: The Glorious Notorious Mix « vb2dc

  • http://newgoldenera.com spirit equality

    when asked about ‘suicidal thoughts’ by a journalist, b.i.g. said he didn’t even remember how he came up with the lyrics and said he was high for 90% of the time that “ready to die” was being recorded. with that in mind, i would give the filmmakers some slack on trying to psychoanalyze a guy who clearly liked hiding the ball (nhjic).

  • http://heavyhittas.com Jonathan Edwards

    It is a full review of the movie “NOTORIOUS” that has hit theaters on January 16, 2009 narrated by filmmaker Hunter Baker in New Jersey.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX8i5WG-AuM

  • JOWDYBOY

    PERSONALLY I REALLY AINT LIKE DA MOVIE AN I AINT SAYING DAT CAUSE I WASNT A REAL BIGGIE FAN. IM SAYIN IT CAUSE I FELT LIKE DIDDY LET US SEE S**T DA WAY HE WANTED US TO SEE IT AN I FELT LIKE DEY WAZ TRYNA ACT LYKE BIGGIE WAS BETTER THAN PAC AN SEE IMMA TUPAC FAN. AN TO ME PAC WAS ALWAYS ONE OF DA REALIST AND BEST NIGGA IN DA RAP GAME MAN F**K WAT EVERYBODY ELSE TALKIN BOUT DA ONLY NIGGAZ KNEW WHAT HAPPEN WAZ (BIGGIE AN TUPAC.