Notorious - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Notorious Reviews

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Super Reviewer
February 5, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
½ August 11, 2009
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.
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2009
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.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2009
I really liked it! I remember being 12 or 13 at the time of the deaths of Biggie and Tupac, I just didn't really know what went down, but watching this clarifies a few things for me. It was interesting watching him grow up and doing what he did to get to where he got to; also the relationships he had with Lil' Kim, Tupac, and Faith. What I really think though is that there should be a Tupac movie out about his life story.
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2009
It's hard to look at this film objectively. Maybe I'd enjoy it more if I didn't think the music was all complete crap. Maybe I'd enjoy it more if I didn't think the whole gangsta rap "thug" lifestyle was a joke. But as it is, the characters are caricatures and the soundtrack is full of music that makes you wonder why anyone liked this guy.

So why did I even watch it? Well, even if I don't know or care much about someone, biographies can still be interesting and entertaining. This is not one of them. A subject unworthy of a biography.
Super Reviewer
May 27, 2010
Sure it has many historical inaccuracies, but even then I enjoyed the movie. A movie about one of my all time favorite hip-hop rappers who I met once at the age of 5. Jamal played Notorious wonderfully, & has a great talent for singing & imitating his songs perfectly (guy should get his own record deal some time). And then we come to Naturi (one of the hottest chicks out there) who played Lil Kim amazingly. Naturi is much sexier than Lil Kim, & just as good as a singer.

R.I.P. Chris Wallace
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2012
By-the-numbers biopic, done competently enough to be watchable, but told in a very conventional, often bland way. Jamal Woolard, though serviceable, doesn't bring any real depth or nuance to the role that would elevate an otherwise lackluster film. The script hits on all the familiar beats for such a story, but never really gives the film any cohesive narrative that would be a compelling story even if it wasn't a biopic, it simply goes from scene to scene, all with an obvious and contrived feel. While enjoyable enough to stick with it, its lack of ambition or inspiration is frustrating.

3/5 Stars
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2010
Think of it as a Horatio Rapper tale, a truly American Rags to Bling story that encompasses all of the finest elements of a good bio-pic. The material is honest and heartfelt?for the lead actor, this assessment goes tenfold. Best of all, like the best of the genre, the film is more interested in its subject?s eventful life than controversial death. Perhaps, the film could have been even more warts-and-all and less like a filmstrip, but the story that results is never boring. Buoyed by an amazingly dead-on performance, Notorious is everything an invigorating biography should be.

In this R-rated bio-pic, the life and violent death of East Coast rapper Christopher Wallace, AKA Notorious B.I.G. (Woolard), is chronicled.

The film takes a definite vantage point, albeit in successive cradle-to-grave chapters. And this is not to say that the film should have embraced a manic, non-linear, cross cutting approach a la Nixon?Notorious?s style is in its straightforwardness. Oftentimes, the flick feels like a music video, which would normally be met with cries of ?foul? by your reviewer. Given the fact that the breadth of the story takes place during the MTV Age, however, this manner serves the material perfectly. Though the material drives alongside his drug-selling, two-timing, and warring with fellow rapper Tupac Shakur, the script never crashes head-on into the overall issue of angel or devil. Instead, it arguably takes a definite biased stand, elevating its subject to pariah. There is no debating the star-making turn by Woolard, however. His brilliant performance rings of realism.

Bottom line: Noteworthy but not hypnotic.
Super Reviewer
½ January 27, 2009
Truly a classic story of one of the finest lyricists in the hip hop game in the nineties. Truly a story to be told and remembered forever. See this if you are true hip hop fan.
Super Reviewer
January 3, 2009
"Notorious" looked as if it could have been handled the wrong way-it had a glitzy trailer and with many of the characters still being alive, it could have come off as bad impressions with some of the actors. Luckily, the movie feels gritty when need be and glamorous when it wants to be, but it always has that 90's hip-hop vibe to it. As for the performances, Jamal Woolard absolutely nails Biggie, it doesnt even feel you are watching an actor, but that you are watching the actual Christopher Wallace re-enact his life. He is perfect for this role, and had this not come out so early, im certain he would have recieved Oscar consideration for his portrayal. The rest of the cast is very well assembled-Bassett and Derek Luke take their widely known roles and show us a side we would have never known about Ms. Wallace or Diddy. The actress playing Lil Kim seemed dead-on and Faith Evans seemed the only real testy one. Hvaing Biggie's real-life son play him as a young boy adds a certain poignancy to those scenes and gives you an honest idea of how a straight-laced kid can get into life on the streets. "Notorious" makes no excuses for Biggie's actions, he was not the best guy, and it doesnt try to make him out to be one, it is honest and shows you how he dealt with his faults and his determination to overcome them and not look back. This is not a typical bio-pick, we hardly get a montage or anything like that, we have a story, and even though we know how it ends, this window into Biggie Smalls mind is something every hip-hop fan should see.
Super Reviewer
February 2, 2009
'Notoriuosly Niave", but still entertians you and stays fly with a solid storyline and great acting to go with it.
Super Reviewer
½ February 20, 2009
An interesting story gets the middle of the road treatment. The pacing drags the film down to TV-movie level. That's a shame cause Jamal Woolard is great in the lead role, and this sparked a renewed interest in Angela Bassett for me. It's fascinating to see how all these famous names with complex personalities were intertwined in ways I was not aware of. Still, it should tell you something that I did some research on these people afterwords and found that to be more informative that what's in the film. Can I just say that Aalyiah is underrated? (she's barely connected with B.I.G. though and is not in the film).

This makes me want to watch Tupac: Resurrection and Biggie and Tupac.
Super Reviewer
½ August 10, 2010
This biopic is all over the place. It moralizes too much, and it doesn't answer big questions, like what did Big really think, and how were his songs produced. What path was he really on? This film just makes Big's mother and Sean Combs look good for posterity.The only authentic voice is in the music.
Super Reviewer
May 23, 2009
Wow! Was really impressed with this movie. I had no plans of ever seeing it, but I am glad I did because it is a really good film.
Super Reviewer
½ June 12, 2009
Great performances by the actors who played Christopher Wallace, Faith Evans, Lil Kim, and a good performance by Dennis White...other than that it was a waste of time. Decent try by Derek Luke [an otherwise great actor] in his honorable attempt to portray Sean "Puffy" Combs. The film as a whole felt very rushed, it was riddled with bad casting not to mention the exclusion of some of Biggie's fellow top mcees.
P.S.- Good score by Danny Elfman.
Super Reviewer
½ December 25, 2008
I felt that as a fan of the Biggie Smalls' music, I had to see this film just to see how Diddy and Volette Wallace would tell the story. The most striking thing and best thing about this film was the casting. The actress cast as Faith Evans was the spitting image of Biggie's widow, Naturi Naughton humanized Lil Kim for me, and Derek Luke gave a great portrayal of Diddy. I remember being disappointed with who they cast for Tupac, Anthony Mackie, but was pleased with his performance as well.

It was vexing and nostalgic to see moments in Biggie's life re-enacted for a big screen film, such as what moments inspired what songs in his life. I especially loved hearing so many songs I grew up listening to as a child.

While the movie wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. And most importantly, I kept focusing on WHO was telling Biggie's story. I found it interesting that even though Biggie's mother Voletta was overweight, they cast Angela Bassett to play her. Also, Diddy was constantly accused and still is accused of leaching off of Biggie's fame. When Biggie was murdered, Diddy was in the car with him, on the left side, where the shots were fired. In the film, Diddy is in a separate car, and the killer shoots from the right side. The only thing I wish they hadn't left out was Lil' Kim's pregnancy. I feel like that would've added to her story and her relationship with Biggie and would've shown just how cruel he and the music industry had been to her when she was a rising star.
Super Reviewer
July 15, 2009
Christopher Wallace (AKA The Notorious B.I.G. AKA Biggie Smalls AKA Big Poppa) titled his first album Ready to Die, in his great album track ?Everyday Struggle? he rhymed ?I don?t wanna live no more/sometimes I feel death knocking at my front door? and his follow-up album was to be titled Life After Death. Notorious, a big budget biopic about the slain rapper, opens with a clip from an interview in which Biggie laments that he doesn?t think he?ll be lucky enough to be around in ten years. Like his sometimes friend, sometimes rival, and fellow rap icon Tupac Shakur he was a man eerily in tune with the life threatening dangers of the street life he became famous rapping about. The ironic twist is that in the final years of his life he was beginning to find some degree of hope, but it was too late. As a ?gangsta? his life mirrored Caine Lawson, the gangster at the center of the Allen & Albert Hughes excellent Menace II Society who only realized that he truly did care if he lived or died with his final breaths, a part which ironically would have been played by Tupac Shakur had he not had a falling out with the film?s brother directors. But Biggie?s greater legacy will be as a musician and in this field his story has as much of interest as other more established artists like Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, the only difference is that Biggies story was cut short at an age where those two musicians stories were just beginning. This biopic wisely chooses to focus on this later story than the former and it?s a film that understands what it was about this man such a magnetic figure in his domain.

The film opens on that fateful night in 1997 where Biggie is shot dead in the middle of Los Angeles, but it quickly flashes back to his life as a young kid in the Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn. His mother Voletta (Angela Bassett) was a school teacher who did everything in her power to help young Chris (who is played at this age by Biggie?s thirteen year old son Chris ?CJ? Wallace, Jr.), in this sense Biggie?s story is perhaps less sympathetic than others who were driven to the streets by worse conditions. Still, one has to realize that Wallace entered the drug game at a very young age and at the height of the crack epidemic. After a period of incarceration, Biggie turns his focus away from drug dealing and toward his talent for rap which he has been developing since he was very young. He meets the famous Sean ?Puffy? Combs (Derek Luke), who?s an up and coming talent scout at this point, and is promised a record deal. The incarceration of his best friend drives him to put everything he?s got into his music career. Along the way he meets (and beds) a then unknown Lil? Kim (Naturi Naughton) and his future wife Faith Evens (Antonique Smith), and then later meets the fellow rapper he will forever be linked with, Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie).

George Tillman, Jr. shoots the film with a music video gloss that?s heavy on camera trickery and fancy editing. This works great when Biggie is ?In mansion and Benz?s, Givin ends to my friends and it feels stupendous,? but it is a lot more problematic when he?s ?livin everyday like a hustle, another drug to juggle.? These scenes scream out for a more down to earth and gritty approach and all of Tillman?s gloss really feels wrong on the streets of Brooklyn, consequently the first half hour or so of this movie really suffers. Tillman seems to understand this problem and wisely cuts this portion short, quickly moving on to his rise to fame in which the style he?s chosen tends to thrive.

I wouldn?t call myself a Biggie expert going into this film, but I am a fan and I feel like I?ve collected a pretty good knowledge of his life over the years. As far as I can tell, this movie is exceptionally accurate to the real facts of the man?s life. I didn?t see any obvious inaccuracies and most if not all of the famous moments of his life are here. I am however a bit suspicious about the depiction of Biggie?s mother and of Puff Daddy, both of whom are credited as producers here. Puff Daddy in particular seems to be painted both as blameless in the East Coast/West Coast feud which breaks out in the second act and as some sort of uplifting coach to Biggie. To his credit, Puffy has allowed the film to point out some of the sillier aspects of his public personality, but the mentorship hat he?s wearing here seems a bit too good to be true. Biggie?s mother Voletta also seems a bit too good to be true. Don?t get me wrong, I?m sure Voletta was and is a great woman who did everything she could in raising this troubled youth, but at times the film makes her out to be downright saintly, there are very few people in the world who are this devoid of fault or weakness.

As one could probably guess, finding a talented, four hundred pound, twenty-five year old, African American actor with rapping abilities probably wasn?t easy. Realizing that there weren?t any veteran actors who resembled the film?s subject, the producers went on a very public search for the right man to fill Biggie?s size fourteen shoes. The man they found was Jamal Woolard, a real Brooklyn rapper who is perhaps most famous up to this point for being one of many rappers who have been shot outside the New York radio station Hot 97. Woolard really does look and sound a lot like the real Biggie, his impersonation skills truly are impressive, but I wouldn?t really call this a spectacular performance. I think this is a performance that the Academy should take a close look at, not because I think it?s really worthy of their award, but because it might make them realize that doing these sort of celebrity impersonations really isn?t as hard as it looks. Don?t take that to mean that I think Woolard didn?t work hard on his performance here; in fact I?m sure he put everything he had into his work here and in turn puts in a very good performance. But this isn?t the work of a master thespian and outside of his impression I wouldn?t call his scene to scene work particularly special. Still, he mostly does what he needs to do and he even does all of his own rapping. Speaking of the rapping, the song selection is pretty good here.

Many called the film ?formulaic? during the initial round of reviews, but I?m not sure that?s really fair. Its only formulaic if telling someone?s life story from beginning to end is a formula, would you criticized a written biography for taking such a trajectory? I wouldn?t, because that?s simply the clearest way to tell someone?s life story. There?s certainly a place for adventurous biopics like I?m Not There, but Biggie Smalls story isn?t as well known as Bob Dylan?s and such trickery would probably do him a disservice. I know I?d certainly prefer a ?conventional? to a movie like La Vie En Rose, which screws with chronology for no reason other than to pretend it?s less conventional than it is.

So, in final analysis, this is a pretty good example of a music biopic. It isn?t great and it has flaws but it?s a good representation of the iconic rapper. It probably has little appeal to those who have no interest in the subject, but those looking for a Biggie Smalls biopic will be well served.
Super Reviewer
May 16, 2009
I thought the performances were really good. I was never really a "Biggie" fan, or a rap fan in general, but for someone like me, it was pretty enjoyable.
Super Reviewer
½ May 6, 2009
I got a soft spot for the B.I.G., so it actually is kinda sad by the end, because he really was just raw badass talent. The movie itself should have just premiered on "Movies that Rock" on VH1
Super Reviewer
January 22, 2009
This movie was very well made. It showed him from all sides instead of just trying to make him out to be all bad or all good. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.
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