Notorious

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Your Words Just Hypnotize Me

Notorious

Starring: Gravy, Derek Luke

By Robert Patrick

Christopher George Latore Wallace, most famously acknowledged by his moniker as the Notorious B.I.G., was a behemoth hip-hop artist known for his baritone drawl and lyrical prowess. Notorious’ booming voice, so representative of the rapper’s larger than life frame, was first introduced to the world on his successful 1994 debut album, Ready to Die.

Surely, whether you are a hip-hop aficionado or not, you’re familiar with Notorious’ celebrated legacy within music culture, his seismic feuds with fellow rapper Tupac Shakur, and his enormous posthumous record sales.. However successful Notorious was, the New York emcee’s tumultuous life – a twisting labyrinth of palm-slapping drug deals and impulsive promiscuity – had a ubiquitous theme of disaster during his younger years.

In director George Tillman, Jr’s biopic about the iconic rapper, there is a formative need to tell of Christopher Wallace the man; a flawed individual who had the ferocity of a bear and the adolescent tenderness of a child.

But how much of this film is objective? Much of the movie’s content is provided by executive producer Sean Combs – Notorious’ best friend and confidant during his hip-hop career. The rest of the film was overseen by the late-rapper’s mother, Voletta Wallace, who realized this project as a sort of bushel of roses to the gravestone of her deceased son. Because the aforementioned parties are dignitaries to Notorious’ estate, it would seem that our glimpse into the rapper’s world may be from a hazy vantage point.

Unfortunately for the film, the man at the helm, Tillman, hadn’t directed a movie since the vapid Men of Honor, some nine years ago, and received little help from his crack team of screenwriters to get him back in the saddle. Evidently the authors – whom haven’t written anything since Biker Boyz and the 2nd Annual Vibe Awards – decided that they were ready to sharpen their prose by blundering dramatic arcs at every turn.

Throughout the movie, no matter how mediocre and uninspired it is, you’ll see flamboyant chains swinging with the repetitiousness of a pendulum; strobe lights pulsating in clubs; and tilted caps anchored over the brow of our virtuoso protagonist. These images, so common of the time and place, hardly make up for the curious dialogue that was, to my knowledge, never used at any point in time. Much of the substandard verbiage in the movie, in fact, sounds like it was written for a VH1 made for TV movie. In one scene, Puff Daddy, who is speaking to Notorious, tells him to “Don’t do it for the paper, do it for the dream.” This line, I assume, wasn’t an excerpt from Puff Daddy’s popular anthem, “It’s All About the Benjamins.”

The worst thing about the movie Notorious – aside from the preposterously long running length – is that it really never examines these people and their respective actions. The movie, instead, operates like a timeline of events; flatly addressing them like footnotes in a sprawling history of long forgotten moments. A movie, in theory, should illustrate a story. In Tillman’s world, however, he almost seems to purposefully hurry over important elements and themes, creating a lifeless story that would‘ve been better served as a micro-biography on wikipedia. How a person manages to waste so much natural drama is beyond me.

The actor playing the Notorious B.I.G. is, surprisingly enough, not bad at capturing the portly emcee’s syrupy howl or monolithic poise. Some of the other members of the cast are also surprisingly effective. Naturi Naughton, in particular, was fantastic at embodying the vociferous temperament of Lil’ Kim. Antonique Smith, who played Faith Evans, one of Notorious’ many love interests, was also pleasantly believable in her respective role.

Because the movie barely scratches the surface of such an interesting story, the best thing that can be said about the entire production is that it sparks interest to learn more about these individuals. This, of course, isn’t a compliment to the movie so much as a nod to the people that the film was based upon.

2/5

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Author: Rob Patrick

A member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, Rob created Cinema Spartan after he stepped down as the editor of a weekly. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. He has also introduced films with the Pacific Arts Movement. He co-owns two dire wolves, Buckley and Ruffin. At any given time, he can tell you superfluous hockey statistics. He is the chancellor of Tapatio, an advocate of iced tea, and an owner of at least 70 pairs of Vans.

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