Monday, January 19, 2009

Dart Adams presents The Dartflix Film Review: Notorious

I saw the long awaited film about the life of Christopher Wallace AKA Biggie Smalls BKA Notorious B.I.G. over the past weekend. Being that my brother's group Relentless was actually pitched to Bad Boy during the early years (they passed on a group of 15 year olds that wrote all their rhymes and produced all their own shit) and I was old enough to remember this era pretty well I had some personal stake in this film. My first time hearing Biggie was on Heavy D's "A Buncha Niggas" off of Heavy D's "Blue Funk" LP in 1993. I was a fan from then on.

The portrayal of the early years was fairly well done. There were things that were glossed over but it's to be expected with a biopic where certain people are still alive. Biggie didn't go down south and any point to sell drugs and get recalled by Puff in the film. He stayed in New York the whole time. You can tell that the film was steered by Voletta Wallace and to a degree Faith Evans because of the fact that Kimberly Jones is portrayed a certain way but the film doesn't really delve deeply into why Kim was the way she was due to some of the omissions of events and key characters in the film.

The complete exclusion of Lance "Un" Rivera with whom Big founded Undeas Records caused me some grief as a head because Junior Mafia got their deal pretty much at the insistence of Un and he also insisted the Kim be included, something Big was actually opposed to at the beginning. In the film, Kim spits for him and he's feeling it off top and tells her to keep at it. That could actually be attributed to his other girlfriend Charli Baltimore whom he had to push on Un. Big wrote a great deal of Kim's rhymes and after he heard her knock out a few THEN he was convinced.

Other than the glaring omission of facts or the mixing of events, the film still drew you in. The performances of Gravy as B.I.G. and Derek Luke as Sean Combs were pretty much on point. The early years were highlighted by Biggie's rhyming around Brooklyn until he made his demo that got into the hands of Matty C at The Source which in turn made it to Sean "Puffy" Combs at Uptown/MCA who wanted to sign him to a deal. He had an HBCU tour ready and Big hit the road with him back in 1992. He was still Biggie Smalls, the underground rapper from Bed Stuy "Do Or Die" Brooklyn.

They showed his release from jail, the recording of his album "Ready To Die" (especially the lead single "Juicy") his subsequent success and his first encounter with Faith Evans. They did skip around the subject of his relationship with Tupac Shakur (played by Anthony Mackie), although they say that Pac "schooled Biggie to the game" but never really went into any real detail besides just scratching the surface. Mackie kinda faxed in his performance as Pac but to be fair, his character was pretty one dimensional in this film. You get the idea they were friends (because you KNOW they were) but the film didn't do enough with the relationship itself, instead it focused on the fallout more. Mistake!

The film did deal with Big's infidelity and his relationship with Junior Mafia (although only Lil' Cease has an actually name and lines) the Sixes and the Snakes are there, too...I guess. Lil' Kim is definitely in effect and steaming at the fact that Biggie is treating her like a sidepiece while he married Faith. What's even crazier is I remember Faith performing her first single on MTV and shouting out "Junior Mafia!" all throughout her verses on "You Used To Love Me" before "Player's Anthem" even dropped. It was 1995 and Big had hits, Platinum sales, artists on the come up and he was the undisputed King Of New York.

The other aspect of the film that is annoying is that none of his issues with Nas, Boot Camp Click, Jeru, Raekwon and Ghostface ever are addressed nor is his friendship with Jay-Z. If we did all that than the film would be 4 hours long so as a writer I can let that go. The omission of Charli Baltimore from the story is a bit annoying and that White chick that Fait caught Biggie cheating with was a stand in for either Lil' Kim or Charli whom it's known that she confronted and/or came to blows with in the past. Since it was Big, Charli and Cease in the car accident that scene is a frustrating one for oldheads as well.

All in all, I suggest that you see this film because every biopic omits (several) things and takes creative license with real events (Cadillac Records, I'm looking at you...and smirking!) so all that aside I recommend this movie. If you can get past all of the Hollywood shit at the end and the fact that Voletta Wallace cast Angela Bassett to play her minus a Jamaican accent/patois or the fact that the same guy that played a young Curtis Jackson ended up playing Lil' Cease then I give "Notorious' a recommended maybe (best I can do!). Now if only I get secure a studio deal a la Marvel Studios so I could help crank out rapper biopics! LOL.



M.Z. said...

Spot On - especially about the omissions.

John Q said...

Great Review. Live from Bedford-Stuyvesant, the livest one, reppping Bk to the fullest.... (RIP Big, Made some great music)

Anonymous said...

my girl was cracking up throughout the whole movie, thought it was on some vh1 type shit. cops posted outside the theatre,awful sound. got my money back. i think the majority of the acting was pretty decent, with the casting of tupac being awful and angela bassett. i agree with you that they could have put a lot more stuff in, not sure if it would have really moved the story forward though. i think the amount of music in the film should have been greatly reduced. biggie fans know the music and those segments could have been shortened so we could have gotten more about him as a person.


Anonymous said...

I wish they would have modeled the film after the Tupac Resurrection movie which was really a long documentary.

Anonymous said...

big collection..