Critics Consensus

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.



Total Count: 144


Audience Score

User Ratings: 97,037
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Movie Info

"Notorious" centers on the life of murdered rapper Notorious B.I.G, from his beginnings as a Brooklyn crack dealer to East Coast hip-hop sensation.

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Critic Reviews for Notorious

All Critics (144) | Top Critics (47)

  • 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.

    Feb 19, 2009
  • Now in blows the myth of the myth: a brashly entertaining biopic.

    Feb 13, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Xan Brooks

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

    Feb 12, 2009 | Rating: 2/6 | Full Review…
  • This is an MTV-friendly, slick and styled production that tells one version of a very murky story and does it with plenty of energy but little imagination.

    Feb 12, 2009 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • A fitfully fascinating rise-and-demise yarn that will probably leave hip-hop fans underwhelmed while also alienating middlebrow audiences hoping for an inspirational night out.

    Feb 12, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jan 20, 2009 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Notorious

  • Mar 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
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 10, 2010
    He was known as the Notorious B.I.G., a man-mountain of rap, but behind the image was Christopher Wallace, an overgrown kid who was trying to grow up and do the right thing. The image we know about. The film "Notorious" is more interested in the kid. He was born in Brooklyn, loved his mother (a teacher who was studying for a master's degree), got into street-corner drug dealing because he liked the money, performed rap on the street and at 20 was signed by record producer Sean Combs. Four years later, he was dead. Documentaries about B.I.G. have focused on the final years of his life. "Notorious" tells us of a bright kid who was abandoned by his father, raised by a mother from Jamaica who laid down the rules and told the kids on the playground he would be famous some day. "You too fat, too black and too ugly," a girl tells him. He just looks at her. He is sweet-tempered, even after being seduced into the street-corner crack business, but he sounds tough in his rap songs -- tough, introspective, autobiographical and a gifted writer. In "Notorious," they show how talent can lift a kid up off the street corner, but can't protect him in a culture of violence. The whole gangsta rap posture was dangerous, as B.I.G. and Tupac proved.
    Ovi G Super Reviewer
  • Aug 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.
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 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.
    Juli R Super Reviewer

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