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"Notorious" centers on the life of murdered rapper Notorious B.I.G, from his beginnings as a Brooklyn crack dealer to East Coast hip-hop sensation.
A biopic that lacks the luster of its subject, Notorious is 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.
As mainstream hip hop becomes ever more predictable, so do the biopics about its stars.
If Milk set the standard for biopics in 2008, then 2009 is off to a strong start with Notorious.
This film knows the lyrics, but not the music.
Even if we miss the thinking that went into the creation of Wallace's B.I.G.-ger-than-life alter ego, the movie's performances are exultant.
For a hardcore fan of his music and his life, it rings true.
Absent the actual music, Notorious would be a lot worse.
The movie leaves us with the sense that, twelve years after Biggie Smalls's death, a lot of people are trying to extract whatever profit or pride they can from the chaotic life of a young man who was, as he well knew, a work in progress.
Notorious is like a piece of well-crafted bling. It looks good, and facets of it shine, but behind the gilded facade there's not much there.
Though it never quite devolves into pure hagiography, the film's central tale of crack dealer made good is sometimes a little too hokey for its own good.
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