Deep Cover (1992)

Genres - Crime, Action  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Post-Noir (Modern Noir)  |   Release Date - Apr 15, 1992 (USA)  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Nick Sambides, Jr.

What could have been just another crime thriller becomes a startlingly effective neo-noir, charged with a sublime racial outrage. Deep Cover's racial politics give the film a complex, world-weary subtext so crucial to a noir. They start with Laurence Fishburne's character, doomed to a life in the drug world he's quietly desperate to escape. They continue with the anti-Semitism Jeff Goldblum's David Jason suffers with his Hispanic partners, who are bitterly aware of the racism shutting them out of legitimate business. Of the police in the picture, one (Clarence Williams III) is black and near saintly; the other (Alex Colon) is Italian and corrupt. The movie's dénouement presents Charles Martin Smith -- in the movie's sole WASP role -- as all-knowing ("I'm God" is his refrain) but powerless to infiltrate -- and ultimately indifferent to -- the film's minority-dominated world of drugs. Director Bill Duke's knowing take on the collateral destructiveness of the "war on drugs" places his film with Menace II Society, Boyz 'N the Hood, Fresh, and Juice as one of the keynote black film movement works of the late '80s and early '90s. It also establishes Fishburne (just plain old "Larry" in the credits) as a black leading man on par with Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes. Yet Deep Cover is no civics lesson: Duke fluidly handles several revved up action sequences and pays homage to groundbreaking '70s minority artists by casting Williams, Gregory Sierra, and Rene Assa in key roles. (Also watch for Sidney Lassick of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest fame.)