Deep Cover (1992) 2.57/5 (2)


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Rating: The Ugly – 66.3
Genre: Crime
Duration: 107 mins
Director: Bill Duke
Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Jeff Goldblum, Lira Angel

The early 90’s was an interesting time for the US crime thriller. The rise of Hip Hop had seen a growing interest in LA street culture which became increasingly reflected in the genre. East coast Italian-American mob bosses were replaced by West coast African-American drug lords and to maintain conflict in the central characters, the cops’ racial background was changed accordingly. Given that this new inspiration was coming from a fringe culture, the earliest movies were not hugely bankable and so they were made with relatively little money. This served to heighten the gritty vibe the subject matter naturally called for but also gave lesser known actors and filmmakers a chance to make their mark. Some turned out to be really quite good but others were not and the result was a series of flawed but interesting films. Deep Cover is a perfect example of such.

Starring a pre-stardom Laurence Fishburn and a wilderness flirting Jeff Goldblum and directed by Bill Duke (a familiar face of 80’s action movies like Predator and Commando), Deep Cover was blessed with some genuine but also raw talent and it did the best it could with little or no budget. Fishburn plays a deep cover operative recruited by a self serving superior (played with gusto by Charles Martin Smith) to infiltrate a drug racket from the ground up. Goldblum is the crooked lawyer turned financier whom Fishburn hooks up with and through a combination of the latter’s street skills and the former’s business savvy, the two rise up the ranks.

Duke brings a competent yet somewhat derivative style to the movie but he was clearly limited with location and production design possibilities. At times, the understanding between director and cast gets lost (such as that strangely acted limousine scene) but for the most part he gets the best out of Fishburn’s burly presence and Goldblum’s idiosyncratic manner. For their part, they make a good duo even though the sometimes wooden script could’ve done them more favours in that respect. The remainder of the cast range from good to goofy. Smith is in top form and the always splendid Clarence Williams III puts in a great turn as the one properly decent cop. Victoria Dillard, as the love interest, unfortunately counts as one of the poorer performances but again the script fails to properly integrate her character.

Deep Cover is an interesting crime movie garnished with two tidy central performances and steeped in the style of the early 90’s. It’s by no means perfect and it’s often realised in clunky fashion but for the most part, it holds up as an enjoyable thriller.

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