Time Out rating:
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Time Out says
Tue Feb 10 2009As mainstream hip hop becomes ever more predictable, so do the biopics about its stars. Like the Eminem and 50 Cent movies before it, ‘Notorious’ tells of a fatherless ghetto child seduced into the thug life who achieves financial and personal salvation through music. And while George Tillman Jr’s film never tries to sugar coat the truth of Biggie Smalls’s short life, his inability to find a new angle on this timeworn tale leaves the film feeling stale and pedestrian.
‘Notorious’ is co-produced by Smalls’s mother, Voletta Wallace, with exec producer Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs looming large over proceedings. What’s surprising is how willing they are to showcase the darker side of Biggie’s personality: he’s a womaniser, willing to sell crack to a pregnant woman, ignore his children and attack his wife. An unconvincing third act redemption aside, this is a warts-and-all portrait.
But in every other aspect, ‘Notorious’ is exactly the film its pedigree would suggest. It checks off all the gangsta rap boxes: first street battle, first arrest, first live show. It’s directed in drab fashion and its characters are left unexplored: Voletta is the archetypal long-suffering saint, with Diddy as the reliable businessman keeping his charge on an even keel. And when it comes to the issue of commerce, the filmmakers try to have their cake and eat it, filling the screen with an orgy of hot cars and free-flowing Moët while still attempting to convince their audience that money ain’t everything.
Author: Tom Huddleston
Fri Feb 13 2009