Notorious (2009) starring Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke, Dennis L.A. White, Marc John Jefferies, Angela Bassett, Jermaine Denny, Naturi Naughton, Anthony Mackie, Antonique Smith, Christopher Jordan Wallace directed by George Tillman Jr. Movie Review

Notorious (2009)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Jamal Woolard as Christopher 'Biggie' Wallace in Notorious

Biggie's life rapped up

On one hand "Notorious" is a movie for fans of rapper Christopher "Biggie" Wallace and lovers of rap music, it pays homage to the rap star showing his sort of rag to riches story from the streets to the big time and all the trouble which went with it, glorifying the rapper to hero status. On the other hand it's a stereotypical biopic of a modern celeb, one who it has to be said had a troubled time having been a drug dealer and a womanizer amongst other things yet the movie never really depicts this negative side of "Biggie" preferring to celebrate the positives of his life. But even if you don't like rap music or the fact that it paints a too positive picture, there is one fact and that is "Notorious" is engrossing, you get drawn into the tale of Christopher Wallace, his mum and all those in his life even if at points the glorifying of this rapper is a bit tacky.

"Notorious" is the story chronicling the turbulent life of Christopher Wallace who as a young man was selling drugs on the Brooklyn street corners but went on to become one of the biggest and most influential rappers of his time; THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.

Derek Luke as Sean 'Puffy' Combs in Notorious

Now I am not a fan of rap music and although I recognize some of Christopher "Biggie" Wallace's music I knew little about him other than he was murdered, so I actually found his story as shown in "Notorious" quite entertaining. It's a typical storyline of a kid who started his life in trouble but through a semi epiphany managed to make it in the music industry and if we are to believe what we are told in the movie had just started to turn his life completely around. In many ways it's very similar to the previous movie about rapper 50 cent "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" and as such is surprisingly engrossing. You get drawn into the tumultuous life, the rivalry amongst rappers, the womanizing and life of crime and although it does glorify his life failing to show what I believe was a realistic characterization preferring to acknowledge his fiery temper rather than really show it still remains engrossing.

Probably for me what really stood out was not all the drug dealing, his passion for women and of course music but the rivalry amongst rappers from east and west coast. I actually remember when Tupac Shakur was gunned down as well as the ensuing rivalry between the different rap camps and so to learn more about this was indeed very interesting. I actually learnt more about the rap legacy from "Notorious" than I did from "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" and although it seems a one sided retelling of the events and rivalry still is what keeps you interested. Without this element "Notorious" would be just another poor kid done good movie.

Of course as well as being a biopic "Notorious" tries to be inspirational, preaching that if a little fat kid like Christopher Wallace can turn into a mega star then you can to. Except it actually tries far too hard and throws far too many quasi inspirational moments and quotes into the mix which end up having the negative effect of making it feel a little cheap and forced. I also find it hard to be inspired by a story where the road to riches involved various crimes yet the movie doesn't really condone them, rather accepting drug taking and womanizing as part of life. But that's just me and I am sure others will idolize this route to wealth and fame.

It no doubt helps that I have no real interest in rap or its stars when it comes to the performances in "Notorious" as I couldn't tell you if Derek Luke is convincing as Sean 'Puffy' Combs or if Anthony Mackie even looks like Tupac Shakur. What I can say is that there are numerous characters whose names I recognized such as Lil Kim and a performance from Jamal Woolard which may or may not be authentic but is like the movie, engrossing. Woolard makes the character of Wallace real even slightly raw, you get a sense between what appears to be a slow outer appearance is a man who thinks a lot, calculates his actions and has at times rage coursing through his veins. It's such a shame that the movie restrains the character and performance so that angry side never gets shown to full effects.

What this all boils down to is that "Notorious" is another one of those movies which celebrates the life of someone famous, preferring to glorify them as a hero and ignoring anything which would be truly detrimental to their image, whilst also trying to inspire others. For the most it is stereotypical with the poor kid done good aspect and all the trappings of success thrown in to provide the glitz and glamour. But with the movie featuring the rivalry between rap gangs it is more interesting and most importantly surprisingly engrossing. I doubt for one minute "Notorious" is in anyway a 100% accurate portrayal but is one worth a watch if you enjoy the likes of "8 mile" and "Get Rich or Die Tryin'".