Come March of this year, it will have been 11 years since Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed in his car in Los Angeles, California.
With that in mind is a movie about his rise to fame and death topical? Well, with most of his fans in their 30s and 40s, so I’m sure Fox Searchlight will find viewers who will care about what really happened in the events leading up to the rapper’s death.
Notorious is the story of Notorious B.I.G., aka Christopher Wallace (played by Jamal Woolard). It encompasses his childhood and how he got into the dope game and then into the rap game.
It addresses Lil’ Kim’s rise to fame and Biggie’s relationship with Faith Evans. And we see what really happened between the artist also known as Biggie and Tupac Shakur during their infamous rivalry.
Newcomer Woolard captures the rapper quite well. I’m sure it came natural to him, seeing as he is an underground rapper himself and has often been compared to B.I.G.
Concerning his on-screen persona, I’m not sure if this was done on purpose, but director George Tillman Jr. allowed the audience to hear Woolard’s heavy breathing during the quiet scenes of the movie. I know that probably has nothing to do with anything, but that stood out most to me about Woolard. Thinking back on the past footage of the real rapper, I can remember hearing him breathe, too.
Speaking of portrayal, Naturi Naughton is believable as Lil’ Kim. But as an actress, she’s not really all that great. Her performance is totally believable, but there was something fake about it. I can’t quite put my hands on why, but Naughton probably needs to work it out.
Anthony Mackie as Tupac made me wonder if he should be the one to bring that late rapper back onto the screen. He doesn’t look like Tupac, but he does seem to capture his essence, like Woolard does for Notorious B.I.G. I’m sure it helped that Mackie was discovered as Shakur in a play called Up Against the Wind.
Antonique Smith as Faith Evans is decent as well. There was nothing that stood out about her performance other than that she made Faith Evans seem more likable than she already is. I didn’t leave the theater hating her. Before then, I wasn’t too keen on Faith Evans for some reason.
I would also like to mention Ginger Kroll, who appears briefly in the film, in a fight scene with Smith’s Evans. I had the opportunity to chat with Kroll about the film recently.
“When I was on set, I knew it would be good,” said the early twenties actress, who’s been acting professionally for five years. “To watch the acting, the film quality, and the shots in the dailies all come together was exciting.”
While being a good sport about getting slapped around on screen, this classically trained theater actress is part of what is sure to go down in history as a great fight scene. I’m sure Kroll is glad she did her own stunts for the film.
Angela Bassett is superb as Voletta Wallace. Although, lately, I’ve been getting tired of seeing her in the mom roles, like Meet the Browns, Waiting to
Exhale, and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Bassett is great as a mother, but she’s got star quality that should be used more to her advantage, like her role in ER.
Derek Luke as Puffy is true to form. He must have studied videos and photos of Diddy day and night. He has the mannerisms and the bad dance skills down to a science. Luke has always been a fine actor. Apparently, that’s because he does his homework.
Last, I would like to mention that Christopher Wallace Jr. (Biggie’s son with Evans) makes an appearance as his father’s childhood self. He is so adorable, even when he’s being foul-mouthed. He’s got such an innocent face he could probably get away with anything. Wallace also shows his father’s early sensitive side that many people never got to see. I’m sure that wherever Biggie is now, he’s proud of his son.
If you’re wondering if I liked the film, the answer is “yes.” The plotline is interesting, even though it plays like a bunch of rough edits. The quick takes are a little choppy for my taste. But, all in all, I enjoyed the movie. It made me think about how silly the east coast/west coast rivalry really was.
And, we’ll never know how far these two rappers would have gone. We only have an idea, seeing as we still hear both rappers’ voices on the radio waves and in new songs. In essence, both rappers will always live on in our hearts and in our ears.