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Deep Cover Criterion Blu-ray Review

“Deep Cover” brings something new to the crime drama genre.

In “Deep Cover,” a police officer (Russell) accepts a job going undercover as a drug dealer named John Hull in order to take down the top officials in the L.A. drug empire. While on the job, Russell partners up with a greedy, adulterous attorney/family man/drug trafficker named David Jason. The two work their way up the ladder and become wealthy all while Russell is internally struggling with his repugnant undercover job that soon spirals out of control.

1992’s “Deep Cover” is the type of film that has grown an audience since its release. This isn’t a by-the-numbers cop/crime drama/neo-noir that Hollywood so often churns out. Instead, director Bill Duke and writers Michael Tolkin and Henry Bean crafted a gritty movie that thoughtfully explores morality, corruption, the fruitless war on drugs, societal woes, and violence. At its heart though it’s a character piece about Russell who wants to clean up the streets as a lawman so that he doesn’t end up like his father (a murdered thieving junkie). Unfortunately, he becomes part of the problem the deeper he goes undercover and he begins to lose himself. He witnesses horrors and is forced to do unspeakable acts in the name of the law and to survive in the criminal underworld. Russell’s arc is aided by narration that provides insight into his character journey. Normally, narration is used as a lazy crutch or gimmick, but it works here because we go into his mind while he’s on this dark undercover quest.

Speaking of Russell, Laurence Fishburne is in peak form here as the character. He really sinks his teeth into this rich character and gives arguably one of his best performances. Fishburne isn’t the only major character here as Jeff Goldblum has a good chunk of screentime as David Jason. It may seem an odd role for Goldblum, but he works well opposite Fishburne. There’s chemistry and, moreover, Goldblum’s character is essentially what Fishburne’s Russell is trying to avoid becoming. The rest of the cast is rounded out by notable character actors such as Roger Guenveur Smith, Clarence Williams III, and Charles Martin Smith.

“Deep Cover” isn’t without a few flaws. Not only does some of the dialogue fall flat, but the character of the Christian cop Taft feels way too on the nose. He’s meant to serve as the moral center/mentor to Russell, but it comes across as too forced and a bit out of place with the rest of the movie. That is certainly not the fault of Clarence Williams III but rather the writing. 


Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration provides a crisp new transfer that will undoubtedly please fans.

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? Expect a nice clean 2.0 track.

* “Deep Cover” trailer
* A booklet featuring credits and an essay by author  Michael B. Gillespie
* New interview with director Bill Duke
* New conversation with film scholars Racquel J. Gates and Michael B. Gillespie about 1990’s black cinema, noirs, and “Deep Cover.”
* New discussions between author Claudrena N. Harold and professor/podcaster/DJ Oliver Wang about the “Deep Cover” music track.
* A 2018 discussion moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell with Bill Duke and Laurence Fishburne.

July 18, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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