Notorious (2009 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George Tillman, Jr.|
|Produced by||Wayne Barrow
|Written by||Reggie Rock Bythewood
Cheo Hodari Coker
|Narrated by||Jamal Woolard|
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Editing by||Dirk Westervelt|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Running time||123 minutes|
The film was released in American theaters on January 16, 2009, by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film's MPAA rating is R for pervasive language, some strong sexuality including dialogue, nudity, and for drug content.
||This section's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (May 2010)|
The film then flashes back to Biggie's childhood in 1983 Brooklyn. Christopher (Christopher "CJ" Wallace, Jr.) writes several rap songs. Christopher then starts selling drugs at the height of the crack epidemic. In 1990, Biggie finds out from his girlfriend, Jan (Julia Pace Mitchell), that she is pregnant. Biggie, distraught, begins to take his drug dealing more seriously. Biggie eventually takes part in a rap battle, which he subsequently wins. Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace (Angela Bassett), throws him out of the house.
Biggie then lives in a crack house. However, Biggie is soon caught in possession of weapons and cocaine, and as a result is sentenced to two years in jail. After serving nine months in jail before making bail, Biggie comes home to see his mother, girlfriend Jan (Julia Pace Mitchell), and their newly born daughter, T'yanna (Taylor Dior). Biggie meets Kim Jones (Naturi Naughton) for the first time. They later have sex in her apartment. However, Kim is afraid to enter into a new relationship because of a past relationship in which she was abused. After reconciling with his mother, he goes to find D-Roc and Li'l Cease, then records a demo called "Microphone Murderer". Shortly thereafter in 1991, Biggie meets Sean Combs, an ambitious producer for Uptown Records. Puffy promises Biggie that he will sign him to a record deal. Biggie then learns that Puffy has lost his job at Uptown Records. Frustrated and upset, Biggie nearly ruins his chances, when Biggie and D-Roc have a run-in with the police. After a brief chase, they are caught by the police. The officer gives them one minute to decide who will take the fall. D-Roc eventually decides to "take the fall" for the both of them.
When Biggie and Mark Pitts talk to Voletta about Biggie's rap career, she asks Mark to leave so that she can speak to Biggie in private. She then reveals to Biggie that she is suffering from breast cancer. Biggie becomes depressed, but soon recovers when Puffy begins his own record label, Bad Boy Records, and signs him. Biggie begins recording songs for his first album, Ready to Die, in 1994 soon thereafter. He records his first single, "Machine Gun Funk"; Puffy suggests there's another song that Biggie can record. The track is called "Juicy".
Biggie then meets singer Faith Evans (Antonique Smith) while at a Bad Boy photo-shoot, who he begins to date. They begin a relationship, and then get married soon after. Meanwhile, Biggie continues to ignore ex-girlfriend Jan and their daughter. When Faith suspects Biggie is cheating on her, she goes to confront him at his hotel room, seeing him with another woman. The two later reconcile despite the fact that tensions between him, Faith, Jan, and Lil' Kim, yet another of Biggie's paramours, continue to grow.
Biggie begins a friendship with rapper/actor Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie). Biggie celebrates his album Ready To Die with Tupac, admiring the other rapper. When Tupac is shot in Quad Studios, however, he blames Puffy, Biggie, and Bad Boy Records for setting him up. At The Source Awards in 1995, Death Row Records executive, Suge Knight, makes a speech "dissing" Puffy and Bad Boy Records, claiming Death Row is the better label. Soon the disagreement escalates into the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry and attacks are made on both sides. At the 1996 Soul Train Awards in Los Angeles, California, Biggie receives a death threat from an unknown black man in a call. At the afterparty, Tupac and Suge verbally assault Biggie, but leave when Biggie's security threatens them with a pistol. A track called "Who Shot Ya?" is later released, which some have interpreted as a diss directed at Tupac. Biggie and Puffy claim that "Who Shot Ya?" was recorded before Tupac was shot, although Suge Knight and Tupac claim otherwise. Tupac then comes out with "Hit 'Em Up" which disses Biggie and alleges a sexual relationship with Faith Evans. After seeing a magazine photo of Tupac and Faith hugging each other, Biggie interrupts an interview that is being conducted between Faith, chasing after her. Faith hides from Biggie and Biggie is forced to leave by one of his managers, Mark Pitts (Kevin Phillips). Later, Faith explains that she and Tupac met at the House of Blues and simply took a picture. She then walks out on Biggie.
Biggie and Faith attempt to work things out after she tells him she's pregnant with his child. The East Coast–West Coast hip-hop rivalry continues, with Biggie, Puffy & Bad Boy Records doing a tour in L.A. While Biggie performs the song, "Gimme The Loot," the fans are booing Biggie, and throwing up West Coast Signs, representing Tupac. Biggie, who had enough, fires back with, "Who Shot Ya," which gets the crowd wild up, which Puffy did not want Biggie to sing that song. The rivalry between the two rappers continues until September 1996 when Tupac is murdered in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sometime afterwards, Biggie calls his mother, Voletta. Voletta states that Tupac was probably killed as a result of their rivalry. Not only is Biggie shaken by Tupac's untimely death, he continues to have relationship problems with Faith, Jan and Lil' Kim. Biggie attempts to resolve these issues by meeting with Jan and their daughter more often.
Biggie and D-Roc renew their friendship after D-Roc is released from prison. Biggie states that he's done with the rap game, a small emphasis upon the apparent change of heart that he had while in the hospital (he was injured in a car accident). Biggie decides to go to Los Angeles to promote his upcoming album Life After Death and brings D-Roc and Lil' Cease with him. The three men, along with Puffy and Faith, all travel to Los Angeles. Biggie gets several death threats. After calling Lil' Kim to apologize and to set up a meeting with her, the film returns to the beginning scene, where Biggie is shot and killed. A few days later Voletta, Puffy, Lil' Cease, D-Roc, Lil' Kim, Faith and others all grieve over the death of Biggie at his funeral. Later, Biggie's casket is driven down the city's street while hundreds of fans are lined up. Someone in the crowd turns on their radio and they play his song "Hypnotize" and the crowd begins dancing and jumping around to it.
Antoine Fuqua was originally set to direct before director George Tillman, Jr. signed on to direct the project. The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Producers on Notorious include Sean Combs, Voletta Wallace and Biggie's former managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts.
In early October 2007 open casting calls for the role of The Notorious B.I.G. began. Actors, rappers and unknown people all tried out. Rapper Beanie Sigel auditioned for the role but was not picked. Eventually it was announced that rapper Jamal "Gravy" Woolard was cast as Biggie. Other cast members include Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace, Derek Luke as Sean Combs, Antonique Smith as Faith Evans, Naturi Naughton formerly of 3LW as Lil' Kim and Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur.
- Jamal Woolard as Christopher Wallace / The Notorious B.I.G.
- Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace
- Christopher Wallace, Jr. as Young Christopher Wallace
- Derek Luke as Sean Combs
- Marc John Jefferies as Lil' Cease
- Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur
- Naturi Naughton as Lil' Kim
- Antonique Smith as Faith Evans
- Kevin Phillips as Mark Pitts
- Julia Pace Mitchell as Jan
- Dennis L.A. White as Damion 'D-Roc' Butler
- Sean Ringgold as Suge Knight
- Anwan Glover as Snoop Dogg(Bonus Scene)
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2009)|
Critical reaction 
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes noted that 50% of film reviewers gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 131 reviews, with an average score of 5.5/10 indicating "Rotten" reviews. Rotten Tomatoes' consensus is that Notorious is "a biopic that lacks the luster of its subject" and a "generic rise-and-fall fare that still functions as a primer for those less familiar with the work and life of the hip hop icon." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received a 61 based on a sample of 31 critics, indicating "Generally favorable reviews." Roger Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 Stars (out of four), applauding the film focusing on Christopher Wallace and not his rapping persona.
Box office 
The film was released on January 16, 2009 and grossed $24,000,000 on its opening weekend in 1,638 theaters in the United States on Martin Luther King weekend. As of April 2, 2009, the film has grossed $36,843,682 in the United States alone and $6,207,865 internationally to bring the overall total to over $43,051,547.
Criticism by Lil' Kim 
Lil' Kim was not happy about how she was portrayed in the film, saying "Regardless of the many lies in the movie and false portrayal of me to help carry a story line through, I will still continue to carry his legacy through my hard work and music." She felt the producers were more interested in the "character" than the actual her. Lil' Kim scenes contained a lot of nudity and sexuality. The film's producers, including Voletta Wallace, downplayed her comments.
Comparison to actual events 
In the scene where Biggie and Puffy meet for the first time, Biggie gives his age as 19. That is correct, as the two men met in early 1992. But during that meeting, Puffy talks about the West Coast's dominance of hip-hop, saying, "They got Snoop, they got Dre, they got Cube, they killin' it. The East Coast is just lookin' for someone to fill that void." At the time, Dr. Dre was known mainly as a member of N.W.A. and would not release his first solo album, The Chronic, until December of that year. Also, Snoop Dogg was not widely known until his appearance on The Chronic, although he did appear with Dre on the Deep Cover soundtrack in 1992. At the time of Biggie and Puffy's first meeting, it is unlikely that anyone would have cited Dre and Snoop as major players in West Coast hip-hop.
Also, there is a scene involving Biggie being kicked out of class, and meeting his girlfriend in a restaurant, where his girlfriend, Jan, says she's pregnant with Biggie's daughter in 1990, and born by the time Biggie is released from jail. In real life, Biggie's daughter, T'yanna, was born in August 1993, nine months after her father was locked up.
Also, a subtitle states October 1990, so Biggie would be 18 and later he does the rap battle. This is wrong, because he did the rap battle when he was 17 and it was in 1989. Also there are advertisements for the film Juice which was released in 1992.
The lyrics in Biggie's rap battle were changed in the movie from the original filmed in 1989 which surfaced on the internet in 2008.
DVD sales 
Notorious was released on DVD on April 21, 2009. About 858,000 DVD units have been sold, bringing in $19.5 million in revenue, bringing the films total gross to $100 million.
A 17-track soundtrack album was released to accompany the film, although only eight of its tracks feature in the movie. The following tracks which Christopher Wallace had input on feature in the movie:
- Born Again (Intro)
- Going Back To Cali
- Ten Crack Commandments
- Bed Stuy Brooklyn (the film credits list this as the title, although the track appears on the soundtrack under the name "Guaranteed Raw")
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Everyday Struggle
- It's A Demo (the film credits list this as the title, although the track appears on the soundtrack under the name "Microphone Murderer")
- Pimps & Macs
- Party & Bullshit
- Machine Gun Funk
- Flava In Ya Ear
- Big Poppa
- I Love The Dough
- Get Money
- Gimme The Loot
- Who Shot Ya
- Sky's The Limit
See also 
- "Notorious (2009)". Box Office Mojo. 209-02-01. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
- Kym Balthazar (February 26, 2007) 360 We Gon' Make It XXL. Accessed November 28, 2007.
- Director Selected for Biggie Biopic, Diddy to Executive Produce XXL (August 13, 2007). Accessed November 28, 2007.
- http://content.foxsearchlight.com/inside/node/2549 at Fox Searchlight Pictures. Retrieved on 2009-01-16.
- Melena Ryzik (October 8, 2007) Dreaming Big About Acting Big NY Times. Accessed November 28, 2007.
- Beanie Sigel Auditions for Role of Biggie Smalls in New Biopic XXL (October 3, 2007). Accessed November 28, 2007.
- Sean Kingston: Big, But Not B.I.G. Vibe (August 30, 2007). Accessed November 28, 2007.
- Brooklyn Rapper Gravy to Play Biggie in Upcoming Biopic XXL (March 6, 2008). Accessed March 6, 2008.
- Gravy for Biggie Joblo.com (March 6, 2008). Accessed March 6, 2008.
- Snoop Dogg at Source Awards
- Notorious Movie Reviews, Pictures. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-25.
- Notorious Reviews, Ratings, Credits. Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-01-15.
- TV Guide
- AP Press Statement Video
- Official website
- Notorious at the Internet Movie Database
- Notorious at AllRovi
- Notorious at Rotten Tomatoes
- Notorious (2009 film) at Metacritic
- Notorious at Box Office Mojo