Director: George Tillman Jr
Cast: Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke
Biggie Smalls, aka Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G, was shot down aged 24 in 1997 by unknown people for unknown reasons. With a life full of drugs, rap, sex and guns, it was only a matter of time before his life was turned into a movie. So here comes George Tillman Jr to direct it: will the mysterious murder now be solved? No.
Instead, this bland biopic focusses solely on the life of Biggie (Woolard), charting his rise to stardom and eventual fall with a righteous air and clumsy script. We see Biggie on the streets, we see his relationship with Tupac, we see him tear apart his own marriage - everything's in there, but it's completely hollow.
Narrated by Biggie from beyond, a disembodied voiceover lends everything a heavy-handed tone, full of portent and supposed wisdom. Not as much, though, as Sean "Puffy" Combs, aka P Diddy (here played by Derek Luke). Walking around in white suits and spouting philosophy such as "we can't change the world unless we change ourselves", Combs comes across at times like some kind of latter-day saint. Like everyone else, he's unconnected to the deaths of Biggie and Tupac. Not that anyone's talking about that. In an unconnected note, the film is produced by him and Wallace's mother.
Woolard's central performance is convincing enough - great, even - but with characters dropping in and out of the cinema at random (mothers, daughters, girlfriends), it's impossible to connect to any of them. His death under-examined, his life over-revered, the only consequence of his actions that the screenplay is willing to acknowledge is that he apparently changed the world forever - a shallow insight into a sad loss of young life.
Long on sentiment, short on structure, this flawed biopic is all over the shop. If you must, buy the albums and pay your respects properly.