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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Retro Review: In Too Deep (1999)

In Too Deep
Cast: Omar Epps, L.L Cool J, Nia Long, Stanley Tucci, Pam Grier, Hill Harper
Genre: Crime Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: over $14 million

Plot: An ambitious young police academy graduate undertakes an undercover mission as a drug dealer so he can infiltrate the organisation of a leading drug dealer in Cincinnati 

'Doesn't Go Deep Enough'

A young undercover cop, Jeff, who is a recent police graduate, is chosen to infiltrate a narcotics ring and to help bring down a charismatic drug lord by the name of 'God'. But soon he finds his loyalties are divided and thus, he is torn between protecting and serving and upholding the law and the police and being a friend to the drug lord. 

Despite 2 somewhat violent scenes (one involving the use of a pool cue), In Too Deep is struck down by an anaemic script that doesn't make full potential of both Epps' Jeff and LL Cool J's antagonist character, God and in developing the drama and nasty side of his ego to its fullest. It is a crime drama that becomes a downtrodden and hollow viewing B/C-movie Donnie Brasco and Martin Scorcese's The Departed, with In Too Deep never managing to go much further than it should and ought to have done. 

The situations themselves are both disingenuous but these are also conceived in a way that, to be frank, I didn't fully buy into. Lead Omar Epps is okay but he lacks screen and leading man presence to carry it off; that, and it was difficult for me to feel anything towards Jeff, and as the movie fails to dig deep into his behaviours, situations, feelings and why he does the things he does. LL Cool J sheds his usual good-guy image by playing the big guy baddie, God. However, as much as he tries to inject a heavy and fierce presence and fieriness to his character, in a less than typecast role and one where it is rare to see him as the villain, it doesn't quite come off as well. 

Pam Grier is terribly underutilised and as one of the fellow cops, I wondered exactly why the writers didn't have her play a more integral role in the film and have her coming to the aid of her partner. Though to have In Too Deep waste the talents of Grier and Stanley Tucci- both established actors by relegating them to supporting roles wherein they could have easily elevated the movie further, is a poor move by the director and casting director in charge. Seeing as they also bring some quality presence, despite their (woefully) underwritten roles. The needless onscreen romance between Epps and Nia Long further impedes the pacing of the film. Also featured in the film are then '90s hip hop and R&B stars, rapper, Nas and singer, Mya. 

Funnily enough, the opening credits declare that ''this is based on a true story'', but Australian director Michael Rymer is unable to rouse any real or believable grit, hostility, tension and believability and with a poorly underdeveloped and flatlined script, it can be argued that none of the cast makes the grade with their performances.

This is a run-of-the-mill, watered down New Jack City/Donnie Brasco/The Departed, lacking in depth when it comes to action, suspense, intrigue, thrills and characterisation that it can't escape from its B-movie/direct to video/DVD status values.

The good guy, who is torn between right and wrong and who has split allegiances with both parties, has been done to death before and after In Too Deep, and done far better in most instances. For a crime movie of this type, it plays out as a tired, repetitive offering that never really finds its rhythm, nor doesn't do much of anything that is good to surprise or entertain, whatsoever. 


Final Verdict:

In Too Deep paints a sloppily bland and far from compelling picture of the (un)loyal cop that contrary to the main title stays within its confines and doesn't try to be bold and adventurous. By trading in good old-fashioned gunplay and decent action for an underwritten story and with little to no genuine traits found in crime and cop-based dramas, this becomes a run-of-the-mill and also weak crime movie.

And one that is easily forgettable. 


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