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A black uniformed policeman is recruited by a devious drug enforcement agent to infiltrate a smuggling organization seeking to expand into designer drugs. This 'ugly side of the war on drugs' explores the context of race, identity and hypocrisy within a brutal and alienating investigation.Written by
Keith Loh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Deep Cover is directed by Bill Duke and written by Michael Tolkin and Henry Bean. It stars Larry Fishburne, Jeff Goldblum, Charles Martin Smith, Victoria Dillard and Gregory Sierra. Music is by Michel Colombier and cinematography by Bojan Bazelli.
Traumatised as a youngster by the death of his junkie father, Russell Stevens (Fishburne) becomes a police officer. Passing an interview with DEA Agent Gerald Carver (Smith), Stevens goes undercover to bust a major drug gang that has links to high places. But the closer he gets in with the targets, the deeper he gets involved - emotionally and psychologically.
A splendid slice of gritty neo-noir, Deep Cover follows a classic film noir theme of a man descending into a world he really shouldn't be part of. This is a shifty and grungy Los Angeles, awash with blood money, single parents prepared to sell their kids, where kids in their early teens mule for the dealers and get killed in the process. A place of dimly lighted bars and pool halls, of dank streets and scrap yards, and of course of violence and misery.
The look and tone of the picture is as intense as the characterisations on show. Duke (A Rage in Harlem) knows some tricks to imbue psychological distortion, canted angles, step-print framing, slow angled lensing, jump cuts and sweaty close ups. Bazelli photographs with a deliberate urban feel, making red prominent and black a lurking menace. While the musical accompaniments flit in between hip-hop thunder and jazzy blues lightning.
Fishburne provides a narration that works exceptionally well, harking back to classic noirs of yesteryear. As this grim tale unfolds, his distressingly down-beat tone goes hand in hand with the narrative's sharp edges. The screenplay is always smart and cutting, mixing political hog-wash and social commentary with the harsh realities of lives dominated by drugs - the users - the sellers - the cartel, and the cop going deeper underground...
Great performances from the leading players seal the deal here (Goldblum is not miscast he's the perfect opposite foil for Fishburne's broody fire), and while some clichés are within the play, the production as mounted, with the narrative devices of identification destruction (hello 2 masks) and that violence begets violence, marks this out as one the neo-noir crowd should note down as a must see. 8/10
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