Film Review: Notorious – 7/10

‘We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves…’

Hip-hop ended for me around 2002. With Eminem as my starting point, I eventually fell for Dre, Pac, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Jay-Z… all the usual rap music that white kids who grew up in the ’90s listened to. Despite my love for that era, I’ve never been a massive Biggie Smalls fan. And that’s probably the reason that Notorious, George Tillman Jr’s Biggie biopic, passed me by the first time around…

Notorious charts the journey of Christopher ‘Biggie’ Wallace (Jamal Woolard) from selling crack on the streets of Brooklyn to conquering the world of hip-hop and becoming a global superstar. Along the way, we are introduced to other famous faces including Lil’ Kim (Naturi Naughton), Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs (Derek Luke) and Faith Evans (Antonique Smith).

Notorious is a straightforward music biopic featuring a great performance from Woolard at its heart. The plot follows the rise-and-fall structure a little too faithfully at times, and the script veers between cliche and platitude on occasion, but on the whole, Notorious is an entertaining and affecting portrait of a seminal hip-hop artist. Biggie’s childhood is perhaps a little more compelling than his various affairs and indiscretions but Anthony Mackie as Tupac brings their feud to life in the third act and these bookends ensure that Notorious is definitely worth watching, even if it is overly long at over two hours.

While Notorious suffers in comparison to the far superior N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, it is still a worthy addition to the rock star biopic canon. Well worth a look for anyone with an interest in ’90s hip-hop.