14 October 2009


URBAN: If you want to know the man, you would be better off watching his VH1 special.

Notorious tells the story of Notorious B.I.G., Chris Wallace from childhood to his untimely death at the age of 25.

URBAN: The thing that was interesting to me about this film really had nothing to with what was caught on camera. The real story was simply: considering that both Biggie Smalls and Tupac have both had VH1 Behind The Music specials based upon their death, that this one made it to the big screen first. Seriously, I don't mean to recreate the East Coast-West Coast, Bad Boy-Death Row feud, but I think that it is pretty much universally accepted that Tupac was the better artist, and certainly possessed a more interesting story.

This film does not compare favorably to the other music biographies that have appeared recently-Ray, Walk The Line, etc. It's not necessarily that the subject matter has anything less to offer, but the method of telling the story here is lacking. Early on, the voice-over narrative does a decent job of explaining Biggie's motivations which allow the viewer to understand the action that he/she sees. Biggie wants to make money, but he also has enough respect for his mother that he wants to keep his extracurricular activity from her. As the film draws on, the motivations often lack explanation, and the viewer gets bogged down in the contradictions that the filmmaker depicts, but have no cause or relation to the major events of the story.

For example, the film depicts a young Chris writing rhymes and dealing drugs, the drugs are explained by the voice-over, but the rhyming,,,, just a throwaway line about how it made him feel better to write rhymes while he was in jail. While I would assume that rhymes would go on to become a big part of his life, the film really doesn't help me out here. Despite the fact that it is a biography, the film basically holds the audience at arms length.

In the second half of the film, this tactic really insults the intelligence of the viewer. This film would have us believe that the feud that laid Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I,G in their graves began over a perceived jumping outside an apartment in Brooklyn. While undoubtedly, this would be a big deal, but it is never understood why, Tupac believed that Biggie was behind this incident. It goes even further after an affront by Tupac to Biggie in front of a music awards show, the voice-over confides, “ We should have gotten together somewhere and sorted this shit out, but it was too late for that.”


You see, everyone who has watched Tupac's Behind The Music knows that there was more going on than that.

In closing, this film fails because it refuses to deliver the depth of details. The voice-over is confusing, as it would have the viewer believe that this is Biggie telling us his story. But it depicts a lot of bad behavior he never apologizes for, and tells the story of a great lyricist without every getting close to the subject matter that inspired his greatest work—mortality.

URBAN: Not Recommended

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to add,,, it should have ended with Puff Daddy's rendition of "Every Breath You Take" That would have changed my opinion of the entire film.