Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Notorious" film review

It would be an understatement to say that my expectations of the Notorious movie were abysmally low: The trailer was cornball, the folks responsible for the movie include P. Diddy as a producer and the guy who wrote Biker Boys, and (speaking of Biker Boyz) Derek Luke hasn't been in anything watchable since Antwone Fisher.

And yet, the film wasn't exactly a terrible piece of tripe.

Maybe it's that I see so many movies of a myriad genre and range that my expectations are low, but as far as biopics go, I think this could have been executed much worse...a sentiment not exactly shared by all.

The acting overall was not as bad as it could have been; newcomer Jamal Woolard did a pretty good job filling the titular character's sausagey shoes. He appropriately captured the presumed swagger of Christopher Wallace, as well as the emotional depth of his more reflective moments with his mother and his children. One of the most resonant scenes was Biggie's response to finding out his mother had breast cancer, as I could envision many young men responding the exact same way he did.

This Woolard guy is actually a real-life rapper with the stage name "Gravy." Is it wrong that I just blindly assume that this dude can't rap? How negative I've gotten toward my beloved genre...

But I digress. The story lines involving Lil' Kim and Faith Evans were interesting, if for no other reason than that I was curious how two relatively attractive women gravitated toward the fattest, nastiest, blackest motherfucker I've ever seen get famous. Kim's character did spend about 72 percent of the movie with her knockers out and pissed off at Big, so I guess I can see why the real-life Lil' Kim might be ticked at that. Not that I don't believe for a second that shit actually did go down grimy between the two of them.

The film would have us believe that 2Pac, Suge Knight and other devious West Coast rap personalities waged a one-sided war on the East Coast during the infamous mid-90s coastal strife. Was 'Pac the asshole they made him out to be and Biggie completely devoid of any wrongdoing? Perhaps, but I take into account that Notorious is a film basically made by the folks that loved him the most, so I'm going to assume some level of creative bias.

Things I didn't like? The movie deferred to the saccharine quite often; especially near the end when Big supposedly made peace with everyone in his life right before he was killed, as if he knew for sure it would happen. I didn't like that Angela Bassett used a fraction of her ass to execute Violetta Wallace's Jamaican accent. In fact, I'm mad that she's typecast period as the maternal figure of trouble famous figures.

This movie is no Ray, and it sure as hell is no Walk the Line. It isn't even quite as enjoyable as 8 Mile (though I may be biased). But if you do what I do and buy the "child" movie tickets with your debit card from the Fandango machines, you shouldn't consider this a waste of your $7.50.

Also, any hip-hop nonfiction piece that's set in the early- to mid-1990s (a la 8 Mile) is likely to have a very dope soundtrack. Notorious is no exception.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty fair assessment. I was going to post a review of "Notorious" on my blog, but I just did a review of "Not Easily Broken" and I'm kind of tired of writing reviews for entertaining, but forgettable films.

Basset's lack of a Jamaican accent confused me too, but I found Derek Luke to be friggin' hilarious. He embraced the caricature version of Diddy (Is there another one?) and ran with it. Jamal Woodard did a good job too...even though in real life he apparently smacked up his wife cuz she was on the"I wish you would" tip.

Anywho, what made the movie worth it for me was that it took me back to that time in hip hop and the way I felt about hip hop.