Movie Review: Notorious

by January 23, 2009

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.