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|Index||54 reviews in total|
Like "The Crossing Guard," this film, "Deep Cover," kept me on the edge of my seat. The scenes between Larry Fishburne and Charles Martin Smith are superb, the writing is virtually flawless, the action is exciting and fresh, and the topic is so relevant it's hard to believe it came out fifteen years ago. It could be released today, it's that topical. I love political action thrillers such as the original "The Manchurian Candidate," but that film, as exciting as it was, left me cold. This film has so much heart and love in it on top of all the thrills that I found myself astonished by the virtuosity of the artists that composed this gem. I'm already a huge fan of the actors. I will now be searching IMDb for the subsequent work of the writers, directors, and producers of this masterpiece. Bravo, "Deep Cover"! I'm telling all my friends about you.
In what is probably his best role to date, with apologies to his turns as Ike Turner in the classic "What's Love Got to Do With It", and Morpheus in the "Matrix" series, Laurence Fishburne plays undercover cop Russell Stevens, who poses as drug dealer John Hull to apprehend a notorious drug kingpin. This role is played in a way that only he could, with the zeal that makes him one of Hollywood's most sought after actors. From the moment that he tells the D.E.A. agent that "the n****** the one that would even answer that question" you know that this role was made for him. Also Jeff Goldblum is at his best as a not-so-honest defense attorney. And let's not forget Gregory Sierra as a sadistic crime lord and one of the best character actors of our time, Clarence Williams III as an honest cop. Add the soundtrack and "Deep Cover" is a bona fide 10 in the urban drama genre, a true masterpiece.
Going into seeing this movie, I wasn't sure about what I was going to see. I was expecting something kind of good (because of Roger Ebert's review), but not great (because of some other reviews). But I was not expecting such a good film. Laurence Fishburne (Boyz in the Hood, What's Love Got To Do With It) stars as a cop who has avoided drugs and the crime life because of his father's involvement and death in it. Soon he is offered a job going undercover as a drug dealer. He accepts it. After a little while he gets himself deep into it. He forms partnerships with high ranked drug dealers, which includes Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Nine Monthes). Soon he becomes less of an undercover cop, but more of a drug dealer. He soon realizes that he is betraying his cause and joining up with them. This presents a problem for him, because he likes the power as a drug dealer and the money, but he also vowed he would never become like his dad. This is a very well done movie, with a great script. Laurence Fishburne is excellent in the lead role. Jeff Goldblum (who I have never seen in such a deep role) is also strong delivering a surprisingly good performance. A good, but violent film.
Having witnessed his junkie father killed Russell Stevens grows up to become
a policeman and make a difference. When he is offered an undercover job by
Gerald Carver he accepts and begins to build a relationship with David Jason
in order to get to the main dealers. However as he is forced to deal drugs
and kill to keep his cover he finds the lines between cop and criminal being
lost is he a cop pretending to be a dealer or a dealer pretending to be a
Larry (as he was then) Fishburne's first lead role was a typically dark vehicle. The story is the usual one of cop losing himself when undercover, however it manages to be more than that for most of the time. Co-written by Tolkin, who wrote The Player, this naturally has a nice cynical edge to it when it looks at the US's hypocritical approach to drug control and the political links between the street hustlers and the political high rollers who court respectability. The story does eventually settle into a traditional setting but even then it works well as a thriller.
The multi-talented Bill Duke directs well with a gritty feel and a few nice touches. However several things are a bit iffy. For most of the film Fishburne's narration/voice over is a bit like a cross between Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner it comes across as a little too dark and heavy and also explains things like we can't figure it out ourselves. However once you get into the film it's not as big a deal. My main problem lies with the characters.
Fishburne is excellent, a real model of underlying anger and violence, Goldblum is good but perhaps a little OTT on the yuppie/violence thing, but there's good support from Smith and Spin City's beautiful (and often underused but not here) Victoria Dillard. However the two main white characters (Goldblum and Smith) are both smeared with racist insinuations Smith appears to insult his black officers and doesn't care about the junkies, while Goldblum is fascinated about all things black and talks about them as wild beautiful beasts and loves having sex with "black'. These things aren't a major problem, but with basically only two white characters in it, it's a little worrying that both are given that edge.
However these are minor complaints that get lost with a good thriller. Fishburne excels and Duke delivers a story that is a good thriller but also has a jaded, subversive edge.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Artfully presented and blunt in its social critique, there is something
deliciously honest about the undercover cop film, this being an ideal
example of no-bullshit brio, starring "Larry" Fishburne as a dour L.A.
agent who goes undercover to take down a Colombian drug syndicate. When
he was a boy, Fishburne witnessed his father gunned down in a bungled
liquor store bust; as an adult, he abstains from alcohol and drugs, and
wears an impassive mien to keep the world at a safe distance. He's
rigid, uncompromising, resentful of authorityhe's the perfect mole, as
his boss says (a squirrelly, race-baiting Charles Martin Smith),
"because he fits the profile of a criminal."
Once under, the plot provocatively centers on the agonizing moral compromises Fishburne must make and his realization that right and wrong is relative to the power of the almighty dollar. Deeply cynical about the government's purported "War on Drugs"at one point even implicating the president by namethe film sees it as just another white power structure profiting from, and fueling, a largely minority industry; honest cops and citizens pay the price for this malfeasance, an imbalance Fishburne eventually exploits with aplomb. But as much as it takes authoritarian corruption for granted, Deep Cover's attitude toward interracial sexual relations is at once fresh and unpretentious: As Jeff Goldblum's sleazy lawyer emerges from a black mistress's apartment quipping to Fishburne about the allure of exotic flesh, the film both confirms and renders ridiculous the sexual legend that, furtively, white men desire black women (and vice-versa). Instead of giggling around the issue, the film promotes this coupling as a reality, thereby reveling in the adolescent quest for exoticism and proving it a ridiculous affectation; in other words, "Get off your ass, white boy. It's no big deal." Deep Cover is also a showcase for Fishburne to prove his mettle as a leading man. He's consistently captivating, evincing the inner torment, sensitivity, and moral indecision so rare for protagonists in this sub-genrethis should have been the role that made him one of America's leading men.
Only toward the end does this hot-wire ride start to become cluttered with self-conscious gravityFishburne's voice-over starts to ring false when he drops stilted religious analogiesbut this is for the most part a smart, dark, socially conscious thriller with the persuasive feel of noir.
This was really a perfect movie for this genre of film. The understated quality acting of Lawrence Fishburne is superb. I really enjoyed seeing the main character's downward spiral. There is excellent character development through the plot which is not the usual cliché. The acting all around is very high caliber, and the tone and pace of the film (directing) is spot on. Highly recommended, highly watchable, one of my top ten favorite films. Films are always better when there is dramatic conflict, and seeing the main character torn apart slowly provides compelling cinema. More films should be made like this! (with less explosions / body counts etc...) As a frame of reference - I am a huge fan of the early James Bond (connery) films, and can't stand the new ones...
Deep Cover stands out as a great example of how to make a good film and
something that is often missing from modern cinema. The cinematography,
editing, and music are all outstanding. What's even better is how all
elements tie-in to a well thought out and communicated theme of duality.
The two main characters Russel/John (Fishburne) and David (Goldblum)
parallel each other nicely, and reinforce the theme perfectly.
On the one hand, there's Russel, the cop determined to make a difference in his community who is then taken advantage of by his superiors and used like a tool. Russel begins demonstrating more and more criminal traits as the film goes on, eventually "becoming" his undercover alter ego John. As a criminal, John is able to do exactly what he set out to do, all while commanding respect and receiving tons of money without any of the red tape he had as a cop. In the end, he has to make a choice, cop or criminal. Work with society and be dishonest to yourself, or work outside of society and be dishonest to "the system".
On the other hand, there's David, a lawyer with a nice wife, house, and kid, but also happens to be a major drug dealer. He too must make the same difficult choice, even stating in the film, "I want my cake and eat it too", which truthfully shows that it is a hard decision.
While Deep Cover is labeled by most as a "hood movie", it is quite different in it's themes from most films in that genre. Instead of simply presenting the inner cities' problems, the filmmakers here try to answer the question of why. Why do young people feel the need to become criminals? Perhaps it's because of the bureaucratic nature of a society that turns it's back on those with strong uncompromising individuality coupled with low income. Maybe not. But unlike most films that answer all the questions they present for their audiences, Deep Cover simply asks the questions, and leaves the answers up to its audience.
The filmmaking here is intelligent, the subject matter is interesting, and the audience is treated with an amount of respect that isn't easy to find in modern film. No, the film isn't perfect, but at least in my eyes, it's very close to being so.
Hard-hitting and stylish, this film quickly moves beyond the usual
notion of 'undercover drug work' into an altogether more practical &
The film is well-paced and, most appropriately for this year, introduces a female art-gallery owner as it develops a relationship subplot. As the story progresses, the film breaks boundaries further & demonstrates an exceptionally sharp sensibility -- but fairly much returns to the standards for the climactic scene.
While not a Scorsese or Tarantino masterpiece, this film is very highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Where to begin in commenting about this film? Deep Cover - the
low-budget motion picture that captivated moviegoers on its release in
1992 and thereafter with its multifarious blur of conventions - has
become irreplaceable in this cineaste's film-loving career.
It seemed indistinct enough at the time of its release. Like so many other films about cops and bad guys, Deep Cover promised little else from what we were used to. Since movie culture primed filmgoers for stories about police who kill to attempt justice, we expected little else from it. Actor Laurence Fishburne, perhaps best known for his roles in School Daze (1988) and Boyz N the Hood (1991), didn't seem out of place here (in his first lead role), while actor Jeff Goldblum definitely did.
I missed the film in theaters.
The film's storyline owes its uniqueness to the subversions it pulls off. Deep Cover builds into the mythical from what seems like a simple cop story, while laying the psychology of its protagonist Russell Stevens, Jr. (Fishburne) bare with its madcap plotting. A proper reading of it is facilitated by the words of a passing character early in the film: "That's the problem these days. People have no imagination." Imagination is exactly what is needed to absorb the narrative of a cop pretending to be a drug dealer, who eventually realizes he's a drug dealer pretending to be a cop. Russell, renamed John by DEA agent Gerald Carver (Charles Martin Smith) to engage his undercover operation, braves misadventure and danger to work his way into the mid-level drug operation of David Jason (Jeff Goldblum). The idea explained by Carver is to work through and ascend a pyramid topped by a high-level cocaine supplier and take him down via the operation. But John must brave Hell to reach his goal, which is introduced to him by the superior agent Carver who says he's "God." A truly fascinating scene in the film comes due to masculine grudgery between Jason and drug dealer Felix Barbosa (Gregory Sierra). It is the birthday party of Barbosa's aide Gopher (Sydney Lassick) and Felix is more than ready to question David's criminal toughness. Before the eyes of the assemblage gathered around a table, Felix taunts David until he loses his cool. Felix then requests that David play a "game" of hand-slapping with him. John's vocal objection falls upon deaf ears. David goes along with the brutal sport until he is injured and humiliated. As John and David leave the small gathering, John notes by voice-over that one of the men will eventually kill the other.
John is brought aboard Jason's operation. While John argues that Jason needs a partner, Jason says he wants him as a courier. Jason explains his goal to John of introducing a practical synthetic cocaine to the market - a fitting ambition for a white husband who habitually lusts after younger black women and learns to murder for vindication. (The issue of interracial sex is given no short shrift in Duke's theatrical sci-fi film, by the way.) John finds a trustworthy friend in African art dealer Betty (Victoria Dillard), but only travels further along the path of righteous outrage. David's path to Nirvana is paved with black and Latino bodies. It should seem that John's moment of realization of killing a man with impunity might serve as a wake-up call. It doesn't. Only when John's neatly constructed role collapses before him, at Carver's behest, comes his awakening. Out-powered and frustrated, John realizes that he's acted as a puppet to the Feds. Fishburne rocks the screen with this mercurial persona of his creation. John takes his very first drink and leaves the sputtering Carver behind. Russell/John's rebirth is soon to come.
The best term to describe John's resolution of the conflict between social hierarchical manipulation and spiritual salvation is vigilante justice. John must rewrite the rules of the game and reclaim Russell before it is too late. And he must do it while dealing with high-level drug suppliers and the Feds.
Probably the most compelling aspect of Duke's film on its 1992 release and to date is its avant-garde form and content. David Jason's worldview could best be described as forcedly Edenic, whereas John Hull's plot at the film's end shows thought of Utopian character. The confusion that the John/Russell character suffers toward the film's climax is reminiscent of Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel Invisible Man. In each work, a black male protagonist struggles against a disturbingly fluid identity put upon him by society. This perhaps intentional "homage" to Ellison's classic waxes especially rhapsodic when John delivers free verse poetry on the spot and quotes crime writer Iceberg Slim when his luck runs out.
Jeff Goldblum's David Jason is a product of genius, a brilliantly crafted greed warrior similar to, and better than, the one limned by Al Pacino's Satan in The Devil's Advocate. This is white liberalism gone psychotic. And as for Bill Duke's direction, it was never better realized as it is during Deep Cover's macho dog-fights, stark realizations, and camera tricks (the shot wherein a man walks across a frame and wipes it away to the next one has since become standard in black film), and it may never be again. Deep Cover ushered in the fragments of an emerging black film aesthetic. Maybe some day it will receive the critical overview it deserves.
This movie exceeded my expectations.
I thought it was going to be a big action movie, but it was quite different. It is a very dark thriller.
While it still had some action this wasn't the main focus. It is very story orientated. Plenty of good twists in the plot line.
The acting was good. Except for at the beginning when there is a kid acting but he was still OK. Laurence Fishburne did well as past reviews have mentioned. Another good actor in this one was Jeff Goldblum, the Lawyer. The rest of the cast were good as well.
Overall I thought it was an interesting and dark thriller which should prove entertaining even with some brutal violence.
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