ReviewWriter: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang YangWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects:
NACinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Get Rich Or Die Tryin'"
How do you best tell the story of Christopher George Latore Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G. in 123 minutes? He was gangsta rapper, lyrical genius, crack dealer, father, son, husband, hooligan and hustler. One of the most memorable lines this writer remembers about him is during a duel with Tupac Shakur when he said "If I f**t on a record, trust me n***** that s**t's gonna sound good".
This movie unfortunately sidesteps the need to address the man, delivering a start-stop account of the slain artiste with no real opinion or angle. You would've thought someone who died at 24 deserved a better movie. Maybe tensions are still strong a dozen years down the road but with Biggie's mum and P. Diddy (or whatever he calls himself nowadays) co-producing, a better movie is required.
While many biopics seize the posthumous opportunity to apologise for the deceased, "Notorious" slips into the comfort zone with its pedestrian script, highlighting key events in Biggie's short life with the least controversy. With the exception that the movie follows Biggie's 'wasn't me' stand with regards to Tupac's shooting, everything else is MTV fluff. There are a lot of lights and champagne but East Side shouldn't be celebrating.
Jamal Woolard must be the luckiest person out of this whole affair. The real-life rapper won the mother's approval when many others thought Guerilla Black was a better option, it was reported. Although we can agree Gravy's infinitely more suitable than, say, Sean Kingston (who boasted prematurely about landing the role), Woolard's supposed six-month prep for the role largely went to imitating his mannerisms and his singing - we don't get a single decent scene of reflection, only lame self-narration that no self-respecting fan will believe Biggie Smalls would ever say.
Naturi Naughton's turn as Lil' Kim is good cinema, as is Derek Luke's Puffy and Antonique Smith's likeable Faith Evans. However, Tupac Shakur played by Anthony Mackie is an embarrassment in casting logic, considering the man not only looks nothing like him but he makes himself look very stupid for someone who is hip-hop royalty. Angela Bassett as Biggie's mum looks like she could have easily done him in. In fact, any of the women in this movie could've pistol-whipped him, together with the actor who played Lil' Cease, who looked 10 years old. The rapper does have a baby face but casting Marc John Jefferies is overdoing it.
For the uninitiated, perhaps there is little point to watch this biopic. It doesn't have the visual class in "Ray" (Ray Charles) or the drama in "What's Love Got To Do With It?" (Tina Turner) - elements which would make it worthwhile for regular cinemagoers. You'd be better off watching Eminem's "8 Mile" than this smaller-than-life portrayal. Worse, it made the real Wallace Jr. play his dad in a few scenes. What a sorry tribute to someone this writer regards (in all begrudging bitterness being a Tupac fan), as truly the greatest rapper of all time.Cinema Online, 17 April 2009