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Movie Review: Notorious

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Notorious , with a superb cast (Angela Basset, Derek Luke, Jamal Woolard, and Anthony Mack), is a profound, suspenseful, and entertaining true story of a mega star, Biggie Smalls, chronicling the life and death of Christopher Wallace. With talent and determination, Christopher seemed destined for fame and fortune. However, at an early he was led down the dark path of dealing drugs on the streets of Brooklyn, which eventually lead to his arrest and finally resulted in prison time.

Christopher was raised by a single mother (a faith-filled one at that), who truly loved and cared for her son. It was tough love from his mother that changed Christopher’s destiny, and it was in jail that he began to compose his rhymes – “Frustrations turned into rhymes and those rhymes told my story.”

Ultimately he changed his game from hustling on the streets to “rapping” on stage. With Puff Daddy by his side, he made it big: Christopher Wallace became Biggie Smalls.

The film, just like Biggie Smalls, is colorful and at times crude. It was exciting to watch his rise to fame and interesting to see the drama that framed his personal life, but it was shocking to observe the events that surrounded his tragic death at the young age of 24, and the related death of Tupak Shakur (something I only heard about on the news back in 1997), which just proves that gang violence is a deadly game where nobody wins!

I was very touched by the final scene, a heart-wrenching sight when Christopher’s mother (Angela Basset) brought her son’s dead body back home from Los Angeles. The film shares her thoughts and feelings during his funeral, where thousands of fans were lined up on the streets of Brooklyn to show their grief and love for this young artist – her boy, Christopher, who became a man.

Whether you like rap or not, Notorious is a great film and I give it 5 stars and a “wow” (great soundtrack)! I wish I had watched this film in the theater, but I did buy the DVD and can watch it again.

Just like his name implies, Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.), was notorious (widely known) and is even popular today. Just ask my two daughters (ages 12 and 27).

I grew up in the 70’s and loved R&B and Soul music, and can remember listening to Kurtis Blow in the 80’s (referred to in this film). Later in the 90’s I enjoyed the music of Biggie Smalls, but I never really appreciated the depth of rap music until I watched this film.

Rappers are storytellers, depicting real life scenarios, which for some can be brutal. They have the courage to face reality and use their voice to tell the world about the dark side of life – sadness, confusion, anger, injustice, racism, drugs, and violence.

They also (as Biggie did in the end) share the positives of life – faith, hope, love, and more. The difference is that they do it with music and can generate a shit load of money at the same time! Do “rappers” make a BIG difference? Christopher Wallace did!

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About Christine Lakatos