“Notorious” incites much nostalgia. For what was, and what could have been. It’s usually fruitless to focus on what could have been, but when I walked out of the theater from seeing “Notorious”, I found myself fixated on what things would be like if Biggie was still with us. Would he have live up to his greatness? Would he have faded into obscurity? Would have gone the rapper/CEO route? How would he have fared in the evolution of hip hop post 90s? We’ll never know.
Jamal Woolard was a convincing Christopher Wallace, though my friend and I agreed that Guerilla Black or even Rick Ross would have been even more convincing. Woolard captured the teddy bear/big pimp quality that Biggie embodied. Naturi Naughton did well as Lil Kim in my opinion, she took on that Queen Bee bravado pretty well. Antonique Smith was dead on as Faith Evans; she looked like her, and her performance was solid. Angela Bassett is def one of the G.O.A.T. actresses, though her Jamaican accent kept going in and out as she portrayed Mrs. Wallace.
Derek Luke killed it as Diddy. He had the Puffy swagger down to a T, as evidenced every time he did the Puffy dance (or as my homeboy calls it, the “Diddy bop”). He did a perfect job adopting that energy and braggadocio that we love Diddy for. Though no one can do Diddy like Diddy. Anthony Mackie performed well as Tupac, but I would have liked to have seen an actual rapper play Pac rather than a trained actor.
That’s something that was missing for me in this movie, the rappers. Critics blast rappers for acting, but this movie is about hip hop, so rappers with decent acting skills should be playing rappers. Of all the Tupac wannabes out there – Ja Rule immediately comes to mind – the role would have been better suited for someone who has practice in adopting Pac’s style.
The movie seemed kind of rushed, like a Cliff Notes version of Biggie Smalls. It isn’t feasible to expect a person’s entire life story to be played out on screen, but it would have been better to see it go more in depth. I wanted to see more of a character study than an brief overview of the life of Biggie Smalls.
Though the movie only skimmed the surface, it was great to see Biggie’s life story played out on screen. The evolution of a boy to a man played out in the streets and the rap industry. Ironically both the streets and the rap game have a propensity to eviscerate people who get entangled in their clutches, whether by their own demise or someone else’s hands. There are some who make it out, but many more get caught up in the game. Biggie was a tragic victim of “the life” in both the streets and the rap game. Jay Z’s “Allure” sums it up when he says, “even James Dean <Biggie Smalls> couldn’t escape the allure/dying young and leaving a good looking corpse.”
We can’t change the world until we change ourselves. – Puffy in “Notorious”