Rating:

* * *

Verdict:

A big biopic that doesn't quite paint the full picture

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Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls was 24 when he died. But within that short life he did a lot of living - enough to leave a hip-hop legacy that continues today.

Notorious

is an authorised biopic that comprehensively chronicles his life from the schoolyard to his death in 1997.

Produced by those closest to Biggie - including his mother Voletta Wallace and Sean "Puffy" Combs - they claim it is the true story of the giant rapper's life.

But you can't shake the feeling this is a one-sided affair, especially when it comes to the East Coast vs West Coast rivalry that ultimately led to Biggie's death.

The film denies Biggie's involvement in Tupac Shakur's death, painting the whole feud as the paranoid delusions of Shakur and the West Coast camp.

To call the film sugar-coated would be unfair - there are plenty of scenes that show Biggie wasn't always a nice guy. He sells crack to a pregnant woman and justifies the sale, shrugging as he says, "I ain't a social worker".

But the overall tone is sympathetic to the rapper and tries to prove he was a gentle giant at heart - even though he hit women, carried guns and never said more than three words without dropping an expletive ...

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Newcomer Jamal Woolard is a natural as the mammoth rapper, easily adopting Biggie's cheeky swagger and rasping speech. And though he makes for fascinating viewing, the story suffers as it tries to capture every last moment of the rapper's life.

Archive news footage brings a chilling edge to the finale, which still manages to shock even though it's entirely expected. But as it drags past the two-hour mark, you stop waiting for the bullet and start wishing for it.

Joanna Hunkin





Cast:

Angela Bassett, Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke

Director:

George Tillman Jr.

Running time:

123 minutes

Rating:

R16