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Notorious (2009)



Average Rating: 5.6/10
Reviews Counted: 140
Fresh: 72 | Rotten: 68

A biopic that lacks the luster of its subject, Notorious is generic rise-and-fall fare that still functions as a primer for those less familiar with the work and life of the hip hop icon.


Average Rating: 6.1/10
Critic Reviews: 41
Fresh: 24 | Rotten: 17

A biopic that lacks the luster of its subject, Notorious is generic rise-and-fall fare that still functions as a primer for those less familiar with the work and life of the hip hop icon.



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Movie Info

Fox Searchlight presents the tragic life story of rap star Notorious B.I.G. from director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food) and executive producer Sean "Diddy" Combs. The script is provided by Cheo Hodari Coker and Biker Boyz writer/director Reggie Rock Blythewood. Jamal Woolard portrays the slain rapper, with Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, and Anthony Mackie filling out the supporting cast. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi

Apr 21, 2009


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All Critics (142) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (72) | Rotten (68) | DVD (17)

As mainstream hip hop becomes ever more predictable, so do the biopics about its stars.

February 12, 2009 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Even if we miss the thinking that went into the creation of Wallace's B.I.G.-ger-than-life alter ego, the movie's performances are exultant.

January 20, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Magazine
New York Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie leaves us with the sense that, twelve years after Biggie Smalls's death, a lot of people are trying to extract whatever profit or pride they can from the chaotic life of a young man who was, as he well knew, a work in progress.

January 20, 2009 Full Review Source: New Yorker | Comment (1)
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If Milk set the standard for biopics in 2008, then 2009 is off to a strong start with Notorious.

January 20, 2009 Full Review Source: At the Movies
At the Movies
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For a hardcore fan of his music and his life, it rings true.

January 20, 2009 Full Review Source: At the Movies
At the Movies
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Notorious is like a piece of well-crafted bling. It looks good, and facets of it shine, but behind the gilded facade there's not much there.

January 16, 2009 Full Review Source: USA Today
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Absent the actual music, Notorious would be a lot worse.

October 22, 2009 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Though it never quite devolves into pure hagiography, the film's central tale of crack dealer made good is sometimes a little too hokey for its own good.

August 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Times
Washington Times

Notorious is a tribute the rapper's contribution to pop culture.

July 7, 2009 Full Review Source:

You've heard of laundering money? Well, this film biography of rapper Notorious B.I.G. has all the earmarks of--not monetary but morality cleansing.

April 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Signals | Comment (1)
Cinema Signals

While it's now less a case of race than class in black film, Notorious seems to still be taking tabloid cues more from alien ghetto underclass drama and what's come before, rather than bringing new and improved insight to the table beyond the cool music.

April 11, 2009 Full Review Source: NewsBlaze | Comment (1)

[An] intermittently entertaining but thoroughly conventional Biggie biopic.

March 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Critic's Notebook
Critic's Notebook

What might have been an African-American gangland epic with a killer soundtrack treads safely as a run-of-the-mill biopic.

March 13, 2009 Full Review Source: MovieTime, ABC Radio National
MovieTime, ABC Radio National

Notorious is a pretty standard biopic, and is probably largely compromised. If you've never seen Nick Broomfield's excellent 2002 doco Biggie And Tupac, you'd be better served hunting that down instead.

March 13, 2009 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

While the script provides ample illustrations of Wallace's tough life, there is not enough focus on what set the recording star apart from his peers or why he became so incredibly popular so quickly.

March 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Daily Telegraph (Australia)

There is little here to attract anyone but the core fan-base.

March 6, 2009 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

A big, bad bundle of biopic cliches, a glitzy whitewash filled with wince-inducing dialogue and propelled by a smug, from-beyond-the-grave voiceover.

March 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Miss FlickChick
Miss FlickChick

Like Violet Kray producing a film about her twin sons. The movie doesn't ignore its subject's shortcomings, but it sentimentalises them and becomes increasingly incoherent as it proceeds.

February 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

The inclusion of real-life footage and re-enacted YouTube clips is an interesting idea, but with each awkward stab at a new shooting style, Tillman Jr moves closer towards disgracing his subject with yet another hack job.

February 19, 2009
Little White Lies

A swaggering delve into the life of the biggest of all rappers.

February 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Sunday Mirror [UK]
Sunday Mirror [UK]

It isn't the most subtle movie, with characters constantly spelling out the big message - in order to change the world, you first have to change yourself.

February 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

A hagiographical whitewash.

February 13, 2009 Full Review Source: thelondonpaper

For his legions of fans there's nothing new to discover about their flawed, but musically gifted, hero in a movie that, for them at least, will only serve to add to his legend.

February 13, 2009
Daily Record [UK]

Now in blows the myth of the myth: a brashly entertaining biopic.

February 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

This team have smoothed over the details of Biggie's rags-to-riches ascent, they haven't succeeded in making it terribly interesting.

February 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

This film by George Tillman Jr is less about the street politics and more about the slushy soap opera going on at home.

February 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Digital Spy
Digital Spy

Audience Reviews for Notorious

I can't help but think this is just an extension of the legend rather than the true story. Although for all of the sugar-coating, it's odd that his friends who produced the film after his death left in the fact that he was a spoiled fat child who never grew up and treated women like dirt and worshiped his mother at the same time. In most peoples book this wouldn't be a good thing but obviously for some this is fine. He was a cool bad man and a mamas boy at heart. It doesn't stick with me and so I can't take this film seriously as fact at all. I didn't dislike it though, I found a lot of it quite interesting and I thought Jamal Woolard was pretty good in the lead role. He was worshiped by his fans and there is no denying his appeal, the end credits with emotional real footage of people partying at his funeral procession said a lot and is actually one of the best parts of the film. I like some of his music but it is interesting how they chose only to include the more universal of his songs, rather than the nasty stuff. It's an ok film to watch as entertainment but as a biopic goes, it breaks all the rules ie. Is pretty much total fiction. He did a lot on the back of just one album but lets face it, he wasn't an important person, he was/is far more successful in death but there is nothing cool about being murdered at 24 years old.
November 25, 2013

Super Reviewer

Biopics are difficult to make and typically flawed, rushing through stages of the person's life and focusing on pointless incidents at times. Notorious falls victim to this but for the most part it was pretty good. The casting in terms of resemblance to the portrayed characters is solid, except for 2pac. The quality of the acting at times is inconsistent but mostly above average. The good's and bad's of rap biopics are fun to watch.
February 5, 2010
Lenny Muggsy

Super Reviewer

Along the lines of 8 mile. this movie tells a story while it connects you with the main character. Even tho you know whats going to happen to him in the begining I still was interested in his like and what would happen to him...The music what very good, altho im not reall a fan of hardcore rap. I can see the appeal of it. I just have to be in the right mood to see it. This movie has some very strong performances as well.
August 11, 2009
Morgan Salem

Super Reviewer

I don't care too much for rap, but a good biop is always fun. B.I.G. seemed like a pretty big douche, but it made for an interesting story.
April 29, 2009
Curtis Lilly

Super Reviewer

    1. Sean "Diddy" Combs: Can't change the world unless we change ourselves.
    – Submitted by Johnny W (17 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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Foreign Titles

  • Notorious B.I.G. (FR)
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