DRAMA; 2hr 2min
STARRING: Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Derek Luke
Bad boys: from left, Woolard and Luke
Growing up in Brooklyn, the only son of a protective single mother (Bassett), chunky Christopher Wallace (Woolard as an adult) is smart enough to cultivate the craft of cool. (But not lucky enough to survive it: Wallace, who became rap star Biggie Smalls, aka the Notorious B.I.G., was shot dead in 1997 at 24.)
By his teens, privately resolved to become “the man I needed to be,” Chris is raking in the dough by dealing, which lands him in prison where he starts to write for real. By 19, he is the father of a baby girl and about to be signed by Sean “Puffy” Combs (Luke) for Bad Boy Records. Biggie is on the frenetic way up.
Woolard plays Biggie with a sleepy-eyed heft that wins you over even when he’s hard to take. The hip-hop is great value, too. What doesn’t pan out so smoothly is director George Tillman Jr’s A-B-C deconstruction of life in the B.I.G. lane, which takes too long to coalesce and longer still to arrive at its cruelly final conclusion.