The dramatic retelling of the life, remarkable rise, and violent fall of rapper Christopher Wallace (aka the Notorious B.I.G.), Notorious plays like A Star is Born set to a rattling gangster snare. With crisp direction by Barbershop series, the film is briskly paced and strikes a worthy balance between sensationalized celebrity biopic and behind-the-scenes drama. Angela Bassett anchors the latter with a nuanced performance as Voletta, Wallace’s long-suffering single mother who attempts to shelter him from the mean streets of Bed-Stuy.
With deep involvement by those who knew him best--the real Voletta Wallace and Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs (played dynamically by Derek Luke) co-produced--the film nonetheless unflinchingly portrays Biggie’s troubled history as a teenage crack dealer, his chronic infidelity and poor fathering skills, and his own role in stoking the ludicrous coastal rivalry that claimed both his and Tupac Shakur’s lives. Notorious delivers an impactful tribute to its subject's genius--revealing to fans and neophytes alike the microphone skills, narrative chops, and fresh vision that made Wallace one of hip-hop’s greatest all-time MCs. Largely, this is due to the ace performance by Jamal Woolard, an amateur rapper who packed on 50 pounds to play the hulking gangster.
We all inevitably grow up, but in the case of Sam Peel (Noel Clarke, Doctor Who), the transition from KiDULTHOOD to AdULTHOOD is particularly difficult. Having been released from prison for causing the death of Trife six years previously, Sam struggles to come to terms with life on the outside. Confronted by those that he hurt before his incarceration, Sam begins to realise how his actions have affected others while trying to figure out which of his victims is looking to get even with him as he is stalked by a pack of young thugs. Sam attempts to tell this new breed of troublemakers that they should stop the violence, as Trife had tried to tell him years ago. But will the cycle of violence continue? As was the case with KiDULTHOOD, AdULTHOOD follows the raw exploits of a group of characters across West London over the course of a single day. Once again, Noel Clarke demonstrates the same assured writing skills that were on offer in KiDULTHOOD, but this time he also steps behind the camera in the role of director. As writer, director, and star, Clarke manages to convey all the grittiness 21st century London can offer and the danger that youths manage to find themselves caught up in. AdULTHOOD, like its predecessor, is a disturbing yet vibrant look at issues affecting young Londoners and speaks with an authenticity that is all too often missing from other films that attempt to discuss issues related to youth violence.
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