No dream is too big! That was the tag line from the movie Notorious, and I’m also sure one of the mottos its star subject lived by! Christopher Wallace a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G. grew up in the tough and sometimes cruel streets of Brooklyn in NYC, but you could tell from the opening scenes in the movie based on his life, that he always imagined a better life for himself. The means in which he chose to go about getting that “better life” is what led to his troublesome youth as a teenager, before making it big as one of Hip-Hop’s brightest and most promising stars! This movie Notorious speaks on all those aspects of Biggie’s life almost from the very beginning as a youth (the young Christopher Wallace was played by Biggie’s son Christopher Wallace Jr.) to his tragic and controversial death in Los Angeles back in March of 1997. I think the film gave an honest, upfront, no holds barred and unapologetic look into Biggie’s life, the choices he made and how he treated his friends, family and others, whether good, bad or somewhere in between at the time! Nothing was sugar coated or watered down to seem more appealing or tame or less offensive to the audience.
There were moments in Big’s life that made you smile or chuckle like when he upstaged one of his teachers at one of the few times he had attended high school (when not cutting class), or when he utilized his engaging gift of gab charm, when meeting and getting to know a young Kimberly Jones aka Lil Kim (played by actress Nautri Naughton). But there were other moments that made you cringe in discomfort as well! Like the time Biggie was selling drugs on the streets of Brooklyn, and in his passion to hustle making paper by any means, was willing and proceeded to sell crack to a pregnant woman! But that is the point that Voletta Wallace (played to perfection by the great Ms. Angella Bassett in the film) who was one of the producers of the film wanted to stress. Ms. Wallace wanted people to see all the sides of which Christopher Wallace the man really was, even the moments that were tough to look at. As for the man & musical icon Biggie, he was played by newcomer to the movie screen and up & coming rap artist Jamal Woolard. Woolard did an extraordinary job in capturing the charm, hunger & passion for life and success that most know and respect Biggie for! And most of all he was able to do a convincing job in performing like Biggie so that it wasn’t just a sound a like job, but he embodied the flawless flow, mannerisms and bravado with his rhymes. So it allowed Woolard to achieve executing the swagger in Biggie’s presence on stage or on the mic with his delivery that made him so beloved by millions in the first place!
The film was able to capture several important moments that helped cultivate Big’s career early on, from battle rhyming on the street corner in Brooklyn, to the chance meeting with Mr. Cee (Big Daddy Kane’s well respected and legendary D.J.), to his first major performance event as a new artist at a concert at Howard University! The film also captured other important moments in Big’s life too, like the meeting of his wife and mother of his son Christopher Jr., Faith Evans (played beautifully by the multi-talented actress Antonique Smith). Theirs was a very volatile relationship which Big seemed to take for granted after winning Faith’s heart and marrying her just months after they had met! It didn’t help matters much that Big’s relationship with Faith put a difficult strain on the relationship between him & Lil Kim, but most of you Biggie fans remember all that drama already! Sadly enough I believe Lil Kim & Faith are still enemies to this day because of that drama.
Actor Derek Luke plays the maestro of Bad Boy Records himself, Sean Diddy Combs. Luke’s performance makes no apologies for the flair, confidence and extravagant boasts that he portrayed Combs with, and I’m sure Diddy wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Combs was as brilliant and shrewd a businessman as he was cocky as an artist and mogul in how he molded Biggie into a Superstar! I think the most telling proof of this is in a statement Diddy (then called Puffy lol) told Big in a meeting with him, when he asked Biggie how old he was and Big replied 19. Puffy then proceeded with the bold statement, “by the time your 21 I’ll make you into a millionaire”! Saying that statement to some may make him cocky, but fulfilling it made him brilliant and damn good at what he does to everyone, especially Biggie.
The movie also makes sure to include one of the most pivotal and important relationships in Big’s career and life outside of him Mom, wife and Puffy, which was his relationship to another Hip-Hop legend, the late Tupac Shakur! 2 Pac (played by the highly underrated actor Anthony Mackie) was very instrumental in showing Biggie the rules of the music game and how to maneuver through dangerous waters in your rise to fame & fortune in the industry. Which is why the movie showed it was so disappointing and painful for Biggie to hear the spiteful venom and salt being thrown on his name by Pac after the robbery attempt at Quad studios went down with Pac being shot 5 times, and he blaming Biggie’s crew for the hit! Many still feel to this day that it was that incident that started the avalanche of events (East Coast vs. West Coast Beef) that eventually led to the deaths of both 2 Pac & Biggie!
All in all I felt “Notorious” was a very solid, well done, entertaining and honest story of the life of a very talented, charming, intelligent young man, who was just on the brink of realizing his full potential in how he could touch and effect people’s lives to change for the better. Christopher wasn’t perfect and made his fair share of mistakes, but it’s a shame that he was robbed of the chance to show the wisdom he had learned from those mistakes and help others or even his own children to avoid those same pitfalls! No greater touching moment in the movie came than at the very end when actual footage after Biggie’s funeral service was shown, and that hearse was driving through his hometown carrying Brooklyn’s proud son around the neighborhood one last time! And everyone remembering the sorrow and melancholy mood that hung over the crowds of people there, until someone’s radio put Big’s then current single “Hypnotized” on and the crowd broke out into a partying, dancing, cheering frenzy!
And you’d have to believe that’s how Biggie would have wanted us to remember him and what to take from the movie. Not the bad times or harp on the sadness from him being gone, but to laugh and enjoy the good times we shared with him, or through his music. So on a scale from 1-5 (5 being the highest, 1 being the lowest) I give “Notorious” 4 stars ****. Till next time, be safe and stay blessed.