"Tragic Rapping Hero"
What You Need To Know:
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.
(PaPaPa, C, B, FR, Ho, LLL, VV, SSS, NN, A, DD, MMM) Very strong, somewhat mixed pagan worldview about real-life rap singer who sometimes follows his church-going mother’s advice about God and morality but commits adultery and fornication as well as uses foul language and performs gangster rap, plus a hint to the mother’s apparent beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness and two women kiss in one scene; at least 250 obscenities, one profanity and 33 racial slurs; strong violence includes two women fist fight, objects thrown in domestic fight, car accident, man shot at close range, man shot and killed at close range; very strong, extreme sexual content includes depicted sexual relations between unmarried people, depicted adultery, very lewd sexual references in dialogue and in lyrics to songs, and suggestive dancing; shots of upper female nudity, rear female nudity and upper male nudity; drinking of alcohol; smoking and many illegal drug reference, including selling drugs; and, lying, cheating, bad parental figures, pride, greed, unmarried pregnancy, and intense rivalry.
NOTORIOUS is the true story of foul-mouthed, hedonistic East Coast 90’s rapper Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls, whose real name was Christopher Wallace.
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.