Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 2:04 pm  |  63 responses

Movie Review: Notorious

No movie is too Big…

by Omar Mazariego

I’ll never forget the morning of March 9, 1997. It was a Sunday and I was woken by my big sister’s loud-ass radio. I woke up and went into her room to tell her to lower the volume. I walked in and Bone Thugs’ “Crossroads” was on the radio. She tells me, “They’ve been playing ‘Crossroads,’ ‘It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye,’ and these other sad songs since I’ve turned on the radio. I think someone died.”

She said that because a few months earlier, when Pac passed, it was the same exact playlist getting burn on the radio. The song finished and someone called the DJ and said, “I wanna send my condolences to the Wallace family…”

We looked at each other only to see a pair of dropped jaws. While we slept that night our favorite rapper was murdered.

Two minutes later I heard “Ayooo, O!!!!” come from outside. I looked out my second floor window and seen my homie, Black, cradling the latest issue of The Source with Biggie on the cover the same way Moses must’ve cradled the 10 Commandments when he walked down from Mt. Sinai. Black said, “Son, you heard?”

I was like, “I can’t believe it, dun.”

We truly felt that a close friend of ours had been taken from us. That whole Sunday was a drag. Later that night the crew got together at the Buddha Lab (the hallway where we used to practice our “recreational activities”), threw on Ready To Die, poured out liquor in his honor and wrote his name on our L’s and sent some smoke signals to heaven asking God to tell Biggie that we’d forever miss him. We spoke about all we’d heard and knew about Big and wondered if they’d ever make a movie about his life. We thought that would never happen. My man Rog said, “We’ll have a black President before they make a movie about Biggie.” Well, it’s ’09. The President is black and Notorious is in theaters.

It took me a week, but yesterday I finally went to see the joint with the girl, Navaii 9-0 (Ain’t blow your whole spot up. LOL!) and my Co-D, Fee. I must say, I was pleased with the outcome, but not blown away.

Critics who weren’t around in the streets for all that was going on during Big’s reign missed out on what was really hood and therefore gave this movie rave reviews and called it marvelous and whatnot. A rags-to-riches story of a kid living in Do-or-Die Bed-Stuy who hid a second life damn near his whole life from everyone he loved in order to get ahead or just get h*@d, period.

Christopher Wallace (played damn near flawlessly by Jamal “Gravy” Woolard) wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth but would no doubt go out and do whatever it took to eat. From drug dealing to his record deal, platinum record after platinum record, his infamous feud with Tupac Shakur and Death Row Records, his baby mama drama with Jan, Lil’ Kim & Faith, the night he was taken from us — it was all well documented in the film. Maybe not to the extent loyal fans like me would have wanted, but it definitely showed the two sides that Big was well known to have had. The smooth, suave and lovable side and the arrogant, selfish and womanizing side. (I have a newfound respect & sympathy for Lil’ Kim now. Now I can see where all the insecurity came from that made her choose to have all those surgeries.)

I have to tip my hat to Jamal Woolard. He really channeled the spirit of Big through his performance. There were times when watching him gave me goosebumps. From the mannerisms to the charisma that had NY and most of the women in it in love with him, Jamal nailed Biggie’s persona down. You almost have to feel bad for him knowing that this will be the role that makes him a star, but it will also more than likely ruin the rest of his career. Both acting and rapping (yes, he’s a rapper too). Derek Luke as Puffy was OK (definitely had Puff’s swagger on lock) and Naturi Naughton as Lil Kim was actually pretty good even though it was to Kim’s displeasure. Whoever cast Marc Jefferies as Lil Cease needs to be blackballed from ever casting again. Jefferies was horrible as Cease. Not only because he looked way to young to be him, but because he couldn’t act for sh*t. He was just horrible. Anthony Mackie as Tupac wasn’t much better, but he acted the way Tupac was known to have acted.

All in all, I’d give Notorious 4 Gangstas.

I really enjoyed this film. It was well written, directed and acted (some of the casting decisions were suspect though). Some important things, however, were missing from the film, from Lil’ Kim being pregnant and Big having her abort the baby to his affair with Charlie Baltimore (shorty who was in the car with Big & Cease when they crashed it). When it was over, Navaii 9-0 asked me what I would’ve added to the movie, and those would be two things. That and the little stories I heard about Big. From the rappers he jumped in Brooklyn (I’m not saying no names but they know who they are) to the club promoter he robbed (that was in the papers the day after Big got bagged for it) to the record label he and Lance “Un” Rivera founded (Big signed Cam’ron to that label). His friendship to Jay and his beefing with Nas would’ve made some interesting little side stories too.

With what I know, have heard and read about Big, my version of the movie would’ve been 3 hours and it would’ve been every bit as good if not better. Like I said, the critics loved the film but they weren’t Big fanatics like I was in the ’90s nor were they on the block and on the stoop when the older G’s would come to the block with eye-witness accounts of what they saw Big and his click do to whoever on whatever street or whatever club. But this version of his life was pretty well done so I can’t beef.

R.I.P., Christopher Wallace. We’ll always love Big Poppa.

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  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    This should be the only review of this movie that is allowed to be published.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    This was the one review I’ve been waiting on……and I still haven’t read it yet.

  • O

    Ryyy Jones!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    In full agreement about the casting O…..especially Pac. They got Biggie’s actor so on point and they missed wide right with Pac’s portrayal….I mean it WAS Big’s movie…but Pac was part of Biggie’s folklore fabric…..every bit as much as Kim, Puff or Cease. I was surprised that I didn’t hate it….but it was respectful to the source material and that’s Big (no pun).

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    i will never see this movie, just like i will never see will smith as ali

  • O

    Pac wasn’t horrible, but dude aint nail it. They decided to go with a well known actor instead of lookin for new talent that could’ve done a better job.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jake Appleman

    O-utstanding. Still waiting on checking it out myself, but it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. It would’ve been dope if they had aimed to make it more like a hood version of Che but, sadly, that doesn’t sell tickets.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    O, I should mention, I didn’t actually READ it. I was just saying that on principle.
    Oh, and look, there’s Jake “Too Cool for Facebook in 09″ Appleman!

  • O

    Gravy was a way better Biggie than Will was Ali. Tell him I said that.

  • O

    Ryan, now that you a country boy, you see Paul Wall yet ’bout some icey grills??

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jake Appleman

    Not to get off topic, but how could I compete with a snow-wovel? The snow-wovel was the Maybach of 17th century Quaker villages.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Wrong part of the “country,” O.
    And no one and nothing can compete with the SnoWovel (get it right), so that was probably smart of you, Jake.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jake Appleman

    Right, I misspelled it because I was too cool to log on and double check.

  • http://iwantoutofokc.com/ James the balla

    All I am saying is .. O is Dave Chapelle, I just found that out. That I heard this movie was dope but I live in small town in Canada that isn’t playing it. And why didn’t they pay Tupac enough money to come out of hiding and play his damn self!!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Is a SnoWovel anything like a Boweavil?

  • Blue

    Ah…the review I was waiting for. Everything is again right with the world…well no its not, but I feel better after reading this. And you nailed it with the Gravy – Biggie > Will – Ali comment… Honestly though, can you ever see this young guy playing anyone different after this? Kinda like Jermaine Hopkins from Lean On Me and Juice getting any other roles besides fat comic relief/sidekick…

  • Cakey

    I agree…if they would have added some more of the beefs and included JAY in the storyline it would have been dope.
    overall I liked it tho
    great review O!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Eboy: You live in Miami, so it’s not really important.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne


  • riggs

    they shouldve showed his beef with raekwon too, and wtf….will smith was great in ALI

  • http://iwantoutofokc.com/ James the balla

    I have to agree with RIggs as well. Whoever doesn;t think Smith was great as Ali … wishes Bush had a 3rd term in office!!

  • http://www.myspace.com/hemantsbeats what

    4 gangstas seems about right for this.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I just g00gled SnoWovel and i’m wondering where that sh*t was when I was a kid growing up in Michigan?

  • O

    Will was cool as Ali. But Gravy was better as Big is all I’m saying. And yeah, the beef with Reakwon would’ve been cool, but he made Kick In The Door for Nas.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    I never saw Ali, and I wasn’t really planning on hitting the theater for Notorious. But I’ve heard mostly good things. Especially about the guy who plays BIG. I knew O would keep it real in his review (I think we all did), and if it passed with 4 gangsters, it can’t be that bad.

  • O

    Wtf is a SnoWovel?!?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Cheryl

    Well, I guess I gotta see it now, if O gave it props. I had been avoiding it because I couldn’t imagine a filmmaker would get this one right. I’ll check it out this weekend (along with Underworld–word!)

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    Well done, O. I liked the first half of the movie better (before Big got big). Liked the way it was shot all claustrophobic in the apartment with his mom to start and Gravy was a great Big, agreed.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    O, you live in NYC, so you don’t have to worry about it either.

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    Also: is this the same Gravy that got shot in the ass or something a few years back and Hot 97 stopped playing his music because they thought he set the shooting up himself?

  • O

    Same exact Gravy that got shot in the butt like his name was Boy George. It was a definite set up. It happened the same week Treach of Naughty by Nature got shot in his butt on The Sopranos.

  • toney blare

    what chubby mean dude should they have cast as Rae? role of a lifetime!

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    And here I was worried that I had the Sopranos plot mixed up with the real life stuff. Just caught Treach on repeat episodes of Oz a few weeks back. I think I’m gonna use an itunes gift card on Poverty’s Paradise. Or maybe Culture Club.

  • O

    The way they were casting other rappers the probably would’ve gotten Anthony Anderson to play Raekwon. Bums.

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    yes Omar! I have not seen this movie yet… I feel terrible about that. The NYTimes review said it didn’t get into the negative stuff about Biggie at all, not that I read other movie reviews.

  • http://slamonline.com khalid Salaam

    Great review O (as usual) and i agree totally with your take on the dude who played Cease. I mean, c’mon! Overall tho, its a decent biopic. Its hard to do a whole persons life in 2 plus hours so i’ll take it for what it is.
    ….. Top 5 Favorite Biggies songs?? Mine are as follows–Story To Tell, Who Shot Ya, Everyday Struggle, One More Chance Remix and My Downfall.

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE |

  • Blue

    Top 5

    What’s Beef
    One More Chance Remix
    My Downfall
    Sky’s The Limit
    Big Poppa

    Wow…stopping at five hurts!

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    that big a$$ wheel on a shovel?! LOL that sh!t looks more advanced then the bulldozers we used to plow the streets after our 7 inch ‘blizzard’.

    And great stuff by O!

  • O

    I feels you, Kha. But at least introduce Jigga for a sec. And they might as well have gotten the real Cease to be himself.

    Top 5 Biggie Joints
    1. One More Chance Remix
    2. Warning
    3. Juicy
    4. Big Poppa
    5. Who Shot Ya?!

  • noahtheboa

    3.)Big Poppa
    4.)Ready to Die
    5.)who shot ya

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    umm, “newfound respect for l’il kim”? Really. Sympathy’s cool but respect for the queen B? I think not.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    story to tell(illest use of guitar in rap)
    juicy (classic)
    one more chance (reeeemix)
    hypnotize (wow)
    dead wrong.(nasty lyrics)

  • nastierthanyou

    Many of us were never rasied in an environment like Mr. Wallace was. So it’s never easy to judge a man by the decisions that has been made. This being said it’s truely dangerous to be so motivational and unable to use it in an effective manner. Once an icon passes and you wanna reflect on his life and the first thing one does is smoke bud and drink liquor that icon hasn’t used his tools to lift the people who appreciate his gift. It’s just a shame that many of this generations main stream icons will be remembered in the same way. Yeah in that sense I guess NOTORIOUS should recieve 4 GANGSTAS. I write this with a heavy heart. Oh by the way my #1 is 10 crack commandments.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Shortly before Big died, XXL had just gotten an advance CD with some rough mixes of songs from “Life After Death.” I lived on the Upper East side back then, and every once in a while then-EIC Reggie Dennis would give me a ride uptown. Needless to say, that was in heavy rotation on those rides. Despite all the drama that was going on at that time, his death still came as an absolute shock, and—to me—was the worst thing to ever happen to New York hip-hop. No way do I see that movie.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    No offense, O.

  • O

    Its all good Russ. LOL. I never knew you was a Big fan like that. And you right, his death was the worst thing to happen to NY hip-hop. Steroids and HGH is a close 2nd.

  • Khalid Salaam

    Its still worth seeing tho russ. The nostalgia is crazy.

  • O

    Yeah, I have NO Regrets about seeing this movie. I might have to own it on Blu-Ray off the strength of its nostalgic value alone. Hip-hops golden era.

  • O

    Sidenote: Bloody Valentine 3D was the worst. The blood, gore and 3D effects was cool, but not $15 worth.

  • Khalid Salaam

    O, what your favorite Biggie verse? I know, its a hard question. I can’t say for sure myself but his verse on Get Money used to hold me down in the club no doubt. That’s easily one of my favorites.

  • O

    Damn Kha, that’s hard. His fresstyles always got me open (“Make MC’s break fast like flapjacks & bacon”). But favorite song verse… probably his verse on One More Chance Remix. “Black & Ugly as ever, however…” Takes BALLS to admit that but still be confident.

  • http://itsadcthing.blogspot.com Squad

    I second O, Bloody Valentine = worst movie ever. The acting was hilariously bad. I was, however, happy to go rock the glasses in public…

    As for making a movie about BIG, it probably can’t ever live up to the hype, just like ALI or the inevitable movie about Mike’s life.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    O, I’ve been listening to Big since you were little. Ha. And while we’re talking verses/lines, “still sellin’ records like Snoop, oops” still gets me every time. I’ll probably see it eventually, although I still have occasional nightmares of line-editing Cheo’s 5,000-word Kobe piece over the phone down to the assigned 3,000 or whatever. *shudder*

  • O

    LOL. You right, Russ. And my favorite Biggie line is probably “Wherever I go my crew is true to swarm / Got stripes in New York like Yankee uniforms…” first time I heard that I got crazy open. And could 10 Crack Commandments be considered one LONG a$$ verse?? If so, then that’s his greatest verse ever.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Puffy was Executive Producer. They portrayed him in a positive light.
    What the faaack.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Thanks O.

  • NotoriousFlorida

    This movie was amazing! Jamal killed it, he played BIG so good it gave me chills the whole time, and Derek did great too. If your a die hard Biggie fan like me or just a hip hop fan in general go see this movie! Trust me you’ll love it!

  • snyper48

    Watched it this weekend, crazy nostalgia, thanks O, . 1. One more chance (remix) 2.Juicy 3.You nobody till somebody kills you 4.Warning 5. Sky is the limit (one of the best inspirational songs ever). Thanks BIG,my kids will know about you, we’ll always love Big Poppa.

  • Yesse

    The movie was pretty good.

  • kobesbestfriend

    this movie was terrible…just terrible!biggie was a great rapper but that was about it…he was nothing special as a human being and didnt deserve 2 have a movie made about him.if i wanted 2 see a movie about a skilled rhymer i might as well watch a movie on the life of dr suess!and black people cant act at all!!!

  • http://susan-boyle-news.blogspot.com Susan

    Yay, this one is my favorite!!! I love it! :D

  • Ny-Rock

    To the dude that made this statement

    ….Once an icon passes and you wanna reflect on his life and the first thing one does is smoke bud and drink liquor….
    I say…
    Ancestral Libations were done from ancient times. Kids pouring out Liquor to honor the decease might seem out of place to some..but it’s rooted in something deeper (the kids doing it probably dont fully understand what’s being done)..!

    Im a BK head..lived blocks from where BK lived/hustle..and the reason the pic wasnt more grimey..Big’s mom and Puffy oversaw the project..