Wednesday, August 25, 1999

In Too Deep

Posted By on Wed, Aug 25, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Jeffrey Cole (Omar Epps) is an undercover cop who, rather easily, infiltrates the inner circle of an underworld crime boss known as God (L L Cool J). God is the kind of smiling sociopath who might show up beaming and huggable at some church function but, at the first whiff of disloyalty, shove a pool cue up your ass. Cole’s infiltration of God’s unholy ring depends on his willingness to play his part to the hilt, and soon, in order to prove his mettle, he finds himself in the role of trigger man during a drive-by shooting. Yep, he’s "in too deep."

The last time we saw this scenario, or something very close to it, it was called Donnie Brasco. But unlike Brasco, which managed to honor certain genre conventions without lapsing into cliché, Deep is a pretty cornball affair. Having placed the action in a black urban context, the writers apparently couldn’t think of anything else to do except rifle through some old hood — in both senses of the word — movies and eschew characterization for golden-oldie dramatic clashes.

The actors acquit themselves well, given the material, although L L Cool J has far too much easy charm and not enough menace to play God. And, remarkably, two very interesting actors — Pam Grier and Stanley Tucci — appear dull and superfluous in small supporting roles. Again, this is the screenwriters’ fault. They should’ve taken a long hard look at what they’d written, worked it over a few more times and then thrown it away.

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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