Let me start off by saying that i am a huge fan of Notorious B.I.G (Aka Biggie Smalls) so a biopic on his life both intrigues me and worries me. There are portions of Biggie’s life which are not fully accounted for which also means that some of the facts could be biased or based on rumour and with Sean “Puffy” Combs and Voletta Wallace (Biggie’s mother) this worry is indeed present, but not so much that fans or those interested in the life of one of the most famous rappers to ever live would feel outraged or confused.
Let me start by saying that i love this movie, however that is not to say that it is without its flaws.
The story focuses on Christopher Wallace, who would later become Biggie Smalls, starting from childhood getting good grades in school and being a good boy despite living in a less than ideal location, however soon the money and power that comes with dealing drugs tempts a young Christopher Wallace to start dealing on the streets. Over time we see him grow and build his drug empire, however Christopher is no ordinary drug dealer, it is apparent from early on that he has a talent for expressing himself through rap. Christopher occasionally raps for fun and sometimes engages in rap battles on the street, testing his talent against other wannabe rappers.
Christopher, despite his obvious talent continues dealing and as his empire expands he slips up and is caught by the police and arrested, while in prison he has nothing to do except write down his rhymes which, when he is released, motivates him even more to provide for his family. Then when being caught again his friend takes the prison time for him on the promise that he will stop dealing drugs and develop his talent. Fast forward after meeting various famous rappers (Puffy, Tupac, Lil Kim, etc.) Biggie is signed and living the lifestyle he always dreamed of until one day his life is turned upside down.
Tupac, one of Biggie’s closest friends was shot 5 times in the building Biggie was located, Tupac survived but blamed Biggie which started the famous west side vs east side battle. After several confrontations the film reaches a predictable (At least if you know of Biggie’s history) yet dramatic climax.
The actors in this film are, for the most part, great, with the obvious stand out being Jamal Woolard as Biggie. Jamal plays this role so well you really do believe that he is Biggie Smalls, the voice, the body language, everything Jamal gets extremely close to perfection. Angela Bassett, who plays Biggie’s long suffering mother Voletta really makes you appreciate what being a mother to a man who is extremely famous and in constant danger is like, you feel for her character and is by far the most sympathetic character in the movie.
The rest of the actors, including Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur and Derek Luke as Sean “Puffy” Combs do a great job with the screen time they are given. Some actors give a weaker performance than others but by no means does that detract from the film.
George Tillman Jr. does a great job of setting up tension and this is by far his best film. The way he approaches certain shots, especially in the climax involving Biggie and the infamous shooting is superb and adds suspense and mystery to a story which itself is shrouded in mystery.
Although some of the story is not based on solid facts and is slightly biased it does a great job of showing the good and bad side of Biggie Smalls. The directing is great, the majority of the acting is superb however some of the aspects that they focused on rather than others is a hindrance to the film. It is a must for fans and is highly recommended for those with even a slight interest in the music or just the life of Christopher Wallace.