Tragic Rapping Hero
Release Date: January 16, 2009
Starring: Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke,
Dennis L.A. White, Angela
Bassett, Julia Pace Mitchell,
Naturi Naughton, Anthony
Mackie, and Antonique Smith
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 100 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Executive Producer: Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs
Producer: Wayne Barrow, Edward Bates,
Trish Hofmann, Mark Pitts,
Robert Teitel, and Voletta
Writer: Reggie Rock Bythewood and Cheo
Address Comments To:Rupert Murdoch, Chairman/CEO of News Corp.
Peter Chernin, President/COO of The Fox Group
Fox Searchlight Pictures
10201 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-1000
Chris grows up in a single parent home and sells crack on the streets when he’s a teenager. His anger at his father’s rejection and his inherent ability to rhyme drive him to write and perform rap songs. He meets performer and record producer Sean Combs (also known as P. Diddy and Puff Daddy). Together, they release an album that brings him instant fame and recognition. Chris also sometimes works with West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur, but a vicious rivalry starts between them after Tupac is robbed and shot outside Chris’s New York studio. The rivalry leads to violence and tragedy.
Chris’s personal life is the basis for the story. The movie shows Chris growing up and struggling with what it means to be a man. He learns early on (by a short jail term) that selling drugs doesn’t make you a man but rather it’s taking responsibility and focusing on family that is the mark of a man.
Fans of 90s hip hop will recognize many familiar names of rappers from the era, notably Kim Jones (aka Lil’ Kim) and the movie in some ways can be seen as an urban WALK THE LINE. Chris Wallace, however, is a tragic hero who learns too late what’s really important in life.
NOTORIOUS is very well made with a compelling, well-told story. The directing is solid and the performances are superb. The soundtrack filled with 90’s hip hop is seamlessly mixed with a terrific score by Danny Elfman.
There are positive themes to the movie, such as taking responsibility, seeing the consequences of drug dealing, and the happiness that a family can bring.
Also, Chris’s mother makes many references to God and Jehovah. Apparently, she was a Jehovah’s Witness believer, but the movie doesn’t overtly note this. She has her son recite Psalm 23 when he ends up in jail, and he has that Psalm tattooed on his forearm. Chris says often that God gave him a clean slate to try to start over after his many mistakes. In flashback at his funeral, his mother remembers him recently praying at the dinner table, telling God “thank you.”
However, the movie is very deserving of its “R” rating with hundreds of instances of foul language and racial slurs and many gratuitous scenes of sexual relations with nudity. Illegal drugs are also commonplace. The score is filled with hip hop music, which often contains sexually charged, vulgar language.
The movie suggests, perhaps falsely, that Chris was repenting, but the constant foul language and extreme sexual content make NOTORIOUS unacceptable viewing.
NOTORIOUS is very well made with a compelling story. There are positive themes to the movie. Chris’ mother makes many references to God, Jehovah or the Bible. Apparently, she herself was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, but the movie doesn’t overtly state that. Because of the movie’s rap setting, it contains hundreds of instances of foul language and racial slurs, many gratuitous sex scenes, and drug references. The movie suggests, perhaps falsely, that Chris was repenting, but this negative content makes NOTORIOUS unacceptable viewing.