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Notorious (2009 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Tillman, Jr.
Produced byWayne Barrow
Edward Bates
Sean Combs
Trish Hofmann
George Paaswell
Mark Pitts
Robert Teitel
Voletta Wallace
Written byReggie Rock Bythewood
Cheo Hodari Coker
Narrated byJamal Woolard
StarringJamal Woolard
Angela Bassett
Derek Luke
Anthony Mackie
Naturi Naughton
Antonique Smith
Marc John Jefferies
Julia Pace Mitchell
Christopher "CJ" Wallace, Jr.
Music byDanny Elfman
CinematographyMichael Grady
Editing byDirk Westervelt
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date(s)January 16, 2009
Running time123 min.
129 min. (Director's Cut)
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million [1]
Gross revenue$40,484,427 [1]

Notorious is a 2009 American biopic about the life of iconic hip hop star Christopher Wallace / Biggie Smalls / The Notorious B.I.G., who is played by Jamal Woolard. The film co-stars Angela Bassett as his mother Voletta Wallace, Derek Luke as Sean Combs, and Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur. Other roles include Naturi Naughton as Lil' Kim and Antonique Smith as Faith Evans.

The film was released in American theaters on January 16, 2009, by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The film is rated R by MPAA and the soundtrack is under an RIAA Parental Advisory label for sex and language.



The film opens at a party in Los Angeles in March 1997. Christopher Wallace / Biggie Smalls / The Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard) is seen sitting at his chair smoking. People, including Faith Evans (Antonique Smith) and Sean Combs (Derek Luke), move to the music on the dance floor. Moments later, Biggie, Combs, and friends are driving away from the party. They stop at a red light, while Lil' Cease, (Marc John Jefferies) is flirting with women outside. A black Chevrolet Impala pulls up and someone inside fires a single shot at Biggie.

The film then flashes back to Biggie's childhood in the early 1980s, recounting his tough upbringing in Brooklyn. Biggie (Christopher "CJ" Wallace, Jr.) writes several rap songs, enduring the ridicule of some classmates. Biggie then starts selling drugs at the height of the crack epidemic. In 1990, after winning an important rap battle, he meets Kim Jones (Naturi Naughton) for the first time. Kim is attracted to Biggie instantly and they later have sex in her apartment. However, Kim is afraid to start a new relationship because of a past relationship when she was abused. Biggie assures her that he won't break her heart and they begin dating (even though he is dating Jan also). Sometime later, Biggie's mother, Voletta (Angela Bassett), throws him out of the house after discovering his involvement with drugs.

After serving time in prison, he goes to see his other girlfriend Jan (Julia Pace Mitchell), and their new daughter, T'yanna (Taylor Dior). After reconciling with his mother, he goes to find D-Roc and Lil' Cease and records a demo called "Microphone Murderer." Shortly thereafter, Biggie meets Sean Combs, an ambitious producer for Uptown Records. Combs promises Biggie that he will sign him to a record deal. Combs, however, will only accept Biggie if he gives up drug dealing. Biggie agrees and then leaves. Biggie nearly ruins his chances, however, a few days later. Biggie, along with his friend, D-Roc, has a run-in with the police which results in Biggie throwing his illegal gun into the bushes. They are caught by the police after a chase. D-Roc eventually decides to "take the fall" for the both of them because he believes that Biggie can succeed as a rapper.

Biggie learns that Combs has lost his job at Uptown Records. Frustrated and upset, he leaves Combs and goes back home only to discover that his mother has breast cancer. Biggie becomes depressed, but soon recovers when Combs begins his own record label, Bad Boy Records, and signs him. Biggie starts recording songs for his first album, Ready To Die, thereafter. He records his first single. Combs refuses the track saying there's another song that Biggie can record. The track is called "Juicy".

Biggie meets Faith Evans at a photo shoot. They begin a whirlwind courtship, marrying later. Meanwhile, Biggie continues to ignore his relationship with Jan and their child. When Faith discovers Biggie's relationship with Jan, she goes to confront Biggie, seeing him with yet 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 Combs, Biggie and Bad Boy Records for instigating it. At The Source Awards in 1995, Death Row Records executive, Suge Knight, makes a speech "dissing" Combs and Bad Boy Records, claiming Death Row is the better label. Soon the disagreement escalates into the East Coast-West Coast beef and attacks are made on both sides. The friendship between Biggie and Tupac is ruined. Tupac verbally assaults Biggie at a later time, but leaves when Biggie's security pulls out a pistol. A track called "Who Shot Ya?" is released, a song which claims to diss Tupac. Biggie and Combs claim that "Who Shot Ya?" was recorded before Tupac was shot, but Suge and Tupac claim otherwise. Tupac comes out with "Hit 'Em Up" which disses Biggie along with talking about having sex with Faith. Then after seeing a magazine photo of Tupac and Faith hugging each other, Biggie becomes enraged. He interrupts an interview that is being conducted with Faith, running after Faith. 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. Biggie tries to renew the relationship, but tensions continue to grow between them.

The East Coast-West Coast rivalry continues until September 1996 when Tupac is murdered in Las Vegas. Sometime afterwards, Biggie calls his mother, Voletta. Voletta states that Tupac probably died as a result of their arguments. 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 Los Angeles to promote his upcoming album Life After Death and brings D-Roc and Lil' Cease with him. The three men, along with Combs and Faith, all travel to Los Angeles. Biggie gets several death threats. Biggie reveals that Faith is pregnant. Biggie is shot and killed moments after calling Lil' Kim to apologize and to set up a meeting with her. A few days later Voletta, Combs, Lil' Cease, D-Roc, Lil' Kim, Faith and others all grieve over the death of Biggie at the funeral. Later, Biggie's hearse is driven down the city's street while hundreds of fans are praising him outside for Biggie's legacy, which his mother takes note of and finds comfort in. 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[2] before director George Tillman, Jr. signed on to helm the project.[3] The film is being distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.[4] Producers on Notorious include Sean Combs, Voletta Wallace and Biggie's former managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts.[3]


In early October 2007 open casting calls for the role of The Notorious B.I.G. began.[5] Actors, rappers and unknowns all tried out. Rapper Beanie Sigel auditioned[6] for the role but was not picked.[7] Eventually it was announced that rapper Jamal "Gravy" Woolard was cast as Biggie.[8] 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.[9]



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 127 reviews, with an average score of 5.5/10 indicating "Rotten" reviews. The 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." The "top critics" currently rate the film at 60% based on a sample of 30 reviews as of August 6, 2009.[10] 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."[11] Many of have criticized the inaccuracies of Wallace's life in the movie; Lil' Kim herself even spoke out against it.[12]

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.[1] 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 $40,484,427.[13]

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 $60 million.[14]


See also

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