August 99: In Too Deep

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by Kendall
Written by: Michael Henry Brown and Paul Aaron
Directed by: Michael Rymer
Produced by: Paul Aaron and Michael Henry Brown
Distributed by: Dimension Films and Suntaur Entertainment
Casting by: Aisha Coley
Starring: Omar Epps, LL Cool J, Nia Long, Stanley Tucci, and Hill Harper
Rated "R"

A disturbing thiller, In Too Deep takes the audience to the underground world of God, the largest drug dealer in the city. Themes of good and evil and the exploration of that fine line in between create an intriguing story of an undercover cop who "loses" himself to the undercover character he portrays.

Designed to titillate and alarm, In Too Deep succeeds in being disturbing, frightening, and crude. Some would say this movie is a realistic portrayal of the hard and difficult lifestyle of an undercover cop. Could be. I am just thankful that I'm not in that deep.


Detective Jeff Cole (Omar Epps) is going undercover on a mission to expose "God" (LL Cool J), a crime lord controlling over 80% of the city's drug traffic. No cop has been able to infiltrate God's crime syndicate long enough to bring him down, but Cole is closer than anyone has been before. However, the stress of staying "under" for so long begins to re-shape Cole's personality.

As his alter ego begins to take hold, the lines of good and evil become blurred.


Omar Epps plays Detective Jeff Cole with sincerity and depth. His performance as J. Reed is chillingly effective as we, the audience, ride the emotional path of self-discovery with him. Epps allows us to enter his mind and experience his transformation. His portrayal of this metamorphosis is mesmerizing. Epps has always impressed me with his range, but here as Jeff Cole/J. Reed I was particularly amazed by the intricacies he displayed. This confirms Epps as a true talent dedicated to the art.

As supporting characters, LL Cool J, Nia Long and Stanley Tucci are strong also. LL's God is as frightening as he is believable. His portrayal of God's sinister side is quite disturbing. Nia Long as Cole's love interest is careful played and Stanley Tucci is quite convincing as the senior officer most concerned about Cole's emotional well being. Be on the look out for Pam Grier as one of the detectives under Tucci's command and Veronica Webb has a small part in the movie as the round-the-way girl married to God.


Although visually appealing from a cinematic perspective, the themes surrounding the film were incredibly disturbing. While enthralled by the creative use of gels and lighting in some scenes, the content often pushed the envelope too far. I found myself far more engaged visually by the lighting, camera angles and rain sequences than I was drawn to the story line. Despite a fantastic performance by Epps and solid performances by the supporting cast, the film in its efforts to be realistic bordered on obscene. The misogyny and brutish violence seemed gratuitously shot. Overall, I am torn.

Epps gave a great performance, but does it mitigate having to sit through a scene reminiscent of Abner Loumina's torture? For some, maybe. So check it out and watch with a careful eye. You'll get the most out of it that way.


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