'Deep Cover' emerges: no run-of-the-mill DEA drama

November 06, 1992|By Scott Hettrick | Scott Hettrick,Los Angeles Times


(New Line, 1992)

There have been so many films that come from the cookie-cutter mold about drugs and breaking up cartels and bringing down drug lords that you may think you're about to see another one when you shove "Deep Cover" into your VCR. But writer Michael Tolkin ("The Player") has injected a few intriguing new political aspects into the familiar premise.

Larry Fishburne plays idealistic police officer Russell Stevens Jr., whose personality profile is nearly identical to that of a criminal. A DEA officer (Charles Martin Smith) tells him that his rage and repressed violence make him the perfect candidate to infiltrate a Latin American drug cartel. "Undercover, all your faults will become virtues," he is told. "You'll be a star there."

After months of work, during which he is required to kill in cold blood and sell drugs to pregnant women and children, Stevens is about to nail the Manuel Noriega-like leader. But suddenly his boss tells him to back off because the drug lord has become an ally of the U.S. government.

Stevens then begins running his own operation; soon it is unclear whose side he is on.

Fishburne's Philip Marlowe-esque narration is a bit campy, but the film features dynamite supporting performances by Smith and Jeff Goldblum as a quirky entrepreneur trying to market a synthetic form of cocaine.

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