Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.



Review by Chris Maitland

Let me start out by saying that I could not wait for the release of this film. When I heard about, I was floored with excitement. I have been a fan of Notorious B.I.G. for a while now, and been hoping for a film version of his life for almost the same amount of time, especially since his untimely demise. Trust me, folks; this is one of the best biopics I have ever seen.

The film focuses, as you might expect, on Christopher Wallace (better known as the Notorious B.I.G or Biggie Smalls). The film starts off in Brooklyn where a young Christopher dreams of stardom. Like many who grew up in that impoverished neighborhood, he has fair share of troubles. By the time he was 19, he had a daughter, had been to jail, and gotten a record deal… and that was just the beginning of his problems.

Notorious shows who Christopher Wallace really was, warts and all. It showcases everything from his relationship’s with his mother (played by the always excellent Angela Bassett), Tupac Shakur (Half Nelson’s Anthony Mackie) and his many, many romantic relationships. The struggles that this man went through and overcame was remarkable. You are really pulling for him to succeed. And when he meets Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs (Derek Luke), his career explodes, and his personal demons follow him until his untimely death.  

This was a very well-done film. This is the portrayal of Biggie that I pretty much envisioned. Newcomer Jamal Woolard nailed his role as Biggie. He became Biggie. His portrayal was spot-on and is overall just an amazing performance. The writing and pacing of the film were terrific, chronicling Biggie’s rise from the streets of Brooklyn, where he made his living selling drugs, and through his meteoric rise to full-blown rap stardom. The story kept you fully engaged throughout its two-hour duration.  About the only problem that I had with this movie was the underdeveloped story with Tupac and Biggie. That was a major part of his life, and the East Coast/West Coast rivalry was the biggest controversy in rap history, leading to the homicides of both stars, and I felt it was underplayed here.

I highly recommend Notorious. Even if you’re not a fan of Notorious B.I.G or rap music, It tells a great story about a great musician who life was too short. It has something for everyone:  humor, emotion, great music and a great story. Especially compared to the other choices that are out there right now, Notorious is the only must-see in an otherwise bleak January.

4 ½ / 5 stars


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