Review: City of Lies (2018)


City of Lies (2018)

Directed by: Brad Furman | 112 minutes | biography, crime | Actors: Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, Toby Huss, Dayton Callie, Neil Brown Jr., Louis Herthum, Shea Whigham, Xander Berkeley, Shamier Anderson, Laurence Mason, Christian George, Michael Paré, Amin Joseph, Josh Hardwick, Glenn Plummer, Keith Szarabajka, Dominique Columbus, Angela Gots, Marisol Sacramento

Los Angeles, March 1997. A city buzzed after world-famous 24-year-old rapper Christopher Wallace aka Notorious BIG was shot in his SUV after performing at an intersection and later died of his injuries. It was a time when notorious gangs like the Cribs and the Bloods were diametrically opposed and the rivalry between East Coast and West Coast hip-hoppers grew. The murder of rap icon Tupac Shakur -six months earlier- put the African-American’s overwrought society even further on edge. Meanwhile, the police force has seen an amalgamation of bureaucracy, corruption and racism.

Righteous and seasoned Detective Russell Poole struggles to survive in a web of untrustworthy and unsympathetic colleagues. His mission is to always bring the truth to light, but unfortunately his superiors think otherwise. When he is put on the Wallace case a month after the murder, Russell quickly distills some names of LAPD agents who are infiltrating undercover at Death Row Records, Suge Knight’s record label. Russell’s dismay grows when he discovers that these colleagues turn out to be corrupt and have been involved in the assassination attempt on Christopher Wallace. But any attempt to substantiate his findings with incontrovertible evidence is rendered impossible for the detective.

When Poole is visited unsolicited by journalist Jack Jackson twenty years after the crime, his sense of justice rekindles and he once again takes on the Los Angeles police force. Strengthened by each other, the men bite into the much-discussed ‘cold case’ with the intention of solving it after all.

City of Lies tries to answer the question of why the LAPD didn’t make a single arrest twenty-four years ago in connection with the notorious rapper’s murder, while the public might prefer to know why Biggie was killed in the first place. At the same time, you hope that a conclusive reconstruction or. denouement is presented, but that is of course ‘wishful thinking’. Because what the LAPD failed to do (consciously or not) at the time, director Brad Furman (‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ and ‘The Infiltrator’) also fails and the mystery surrounding the fatal attack on Biggie Smalls will remain shrouded in mystery, as will the other pressing question: “Was the attack on Notorious BIG in retaliation for the murder of Tupac?”

The shocking, true story about one of the most talked-about cover-ups in American (music) history has been shelved for three years. And you can call that a shame, because this story is penetratingly and formidably told by veteran Johnny Depp, who bites into the role of the young and older Russell Poole together with his formidable opponent Forest Whitaker, who based the role of Jack Jackson on the actual journalist Randall Sullivan.

A valuable and emotional cameo is that of Voletta Wallace. Just like in 1997, she is having a cup of coffee with Russell Poole and thanks him with soft eyes and a crying mother’s heart. After all, Voletta knows how much effort Russell went to to solve her son’s murder and how painful it was for the passionate detective to have to let the case rest. The storyline itself unfolds quite slowly, but that pace doesn’t detract from the harrowing truth and makes ‘City of Lies’ worth seeing.

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