NOTORIOUS: Dallas South Movie Review

They were the days when things were best, they were the days when things were worst.


The years when the Nortorious B.I.G. was on top, the years that I matriculated through college.

Two weeks ago I didn’t even know that there was a Christopher Wallace biopic on the horizon.  I have to say that the initial previews didn’t give me a lot of reason to think that the movie would be that great.

But I’m a huge fan of Biggie, and “One More Chance” is my all time favorite jam.  So I felt I owed it to Mr. Smalls to check out the flick on opening day.

NOTORIOUS is a B.I.G. movie.

I think that’s where a lot of the skepticism is coming from.  The trailers had a made for TV feel, as the only familiar faces were Angela Bassett and Derek Luke.  But this is a big Hollywood film by all accounts.

The casting in this movie is spot on, the acting is flawless, and the direction is near perfect.  For those who lived these years, NOTORIOUS will take you back to that place:

Riding around the yard bumping “Juicy”.

Going crazy at the party when the D.J. spun “One More Chance.”

The treat of a Biggie Smalls guest spot i.e. “Get Money”


It’s amazing to me how Jamal Woolard was able to carry this movie.  The character that he played, Christopher Wallace, was like no one else.  No one talked like Biggie, no one walked like biggie, no one flowed like Biggie.

Yet every second that Woolard was on the screen I felt like I was watching the Notorious B.I.G.  Whether it was Wallace’s labored breathing, or limp in his later years, Woolard had it down pat.

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Derek Luke was good too.  He captured ‘Puffy’ in every way physically, though he wasn’t able to recreate his voice -which seems like it would have been easier.

Angela Bassett was solid (of course) as Voletta Wallace.  Antonique Smith and Anthony Mackie had nice turns as Faith Evans and Tupac Shakur respectively.  And Naturi Naughton did an excellent job as Lil’ Kim.  And I’m not just saying that because of wardrobe selection.  Kim is not happy about the portrayal which is more a function of the script than Naughton’s work.

My wife and I checked out NOTORIOUS at a noon showing and we were surprised to see that the theater was three fourths full.  I could feel the audience holding on for every word and every scene. I hadn’t had that feeling in a theater since viewing Pulp Fiction.  And there was even sobbing at the end of the film.

A friend predicted NOTORIOUS would be number one at the box office yesterday and I doubted him.  Today, I see no reason why NOTORIOUS won’t be America’s number one film on Monday.

Anyone who wants to look a little deeper into the movie will also see that NOTORIOUS, and those days portrayed in the streets of Brooklyn, represent many of the problems faced by Black males across the nation: ack of fathers in the home, drugs killing off young people, and too many kids making grownup decisions.

The take away for me was just how young everyone was while all of these enormous events were going on around them.  Tupac was 25 when he was struck down in Vegas, and Biggie was 24 when he was killed in L.A.  The problems that they were dealing with were real and serious, and seemed so to me at the time.  But at 35 looking back much of it was trivial bravado -if not serious delusion in Shakur’s case.

Either way, none of it was as bad as they thought.  The saddest part is that the film ends like the biographies of too many other great black men.  Whether it’s Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, Marvin Gaye or Christopher Wallace, they all end the same way: with gunshots and a funeral.  It shouldn’t have to be like that.

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