‘City of Lies‘ is a crime drama directed by Brad Furman. It was originally meant to premier in 2019 and even had a limited release in Italy, but was delayed. It was picked up in 2021 by Saban Films and released as a video-on-demand.
LA reporter Jackson (Forest Whitaker) is assigned to work on a retrospective on the twenty year old unsolved murder of Christopher Wallace, the rapper known as Biggie Smalls aka Notorious BIG. He tracks down retired LAPD Detective Russell Poole (Johnny Depp) who worked the case when it first happened. At first, Poole is suspicious of Jackson, but they soon develop a rapport. Poole reminisces about how he worked to expose the LA Rampart gang, a group of corrupt cops selling cocaine with some moonlighting for Death Row Records, owned by rapper Suge Knight, a suspect in Wallace’s death. From there, Poole kept trying to chase clues, even seeing if there was a connection to the death of fellow rapper Tupac Shakur. No matter what stone is overturned, Poole is shut down by red tape, which Jackson also runs into, even after his boss (Xander Berkeley) warns him to stay away.
The murders of Christopher Wallace and Tupac Shakur have become a mystery steeped into our pop culture. The fact that we only have threads and no explanation from the LAPD is stunning. Likewise, Poole’s tireless work at trying to solve the mystery, despite the police and media portraying him as crackpot, he stayed true even to his passing. Brad Furman attempts to give a name as to why and the possible how this mystery remains.
First of all, the acting is superb. Forest Whitaker is excellent as the reporter who has lost his way and is struggling to get his sense of purpose back. He does a good job of portraying this character and his frustration at the wall he is running into. Johnny Depp does an excellent job as well. He truly captures Poole, portraying him as a pessimistic, bitter man who was mocked and humiliated for revisiting LA’s old wounds. Perhaps he was channeling himself into Poole, a detective who only wanted to do the right thing.
I can see why the movie would not appeal to some viewers. It largely features Poole and Jackson discussing the death of Biggie Smalls with flashbacks to the events that take place. A few scenes had some action, but it mainly relied on exposition and conversation to tell the story. With this in mind, the sheer frustration of the red tape that the characters keep running into as they investigate the crime kept me hooked.
As the events unfold, you wonder how someone so famous cannot have his murder solved and if there could be some conspiracy. I found myself hooked from beginning to end by the frustration and revelations alone. Not to mention, how it shows the power of institutions to silence individual opinion.
Bottom line, City of Lies is an intriguing film that highlights one of the most famous unsolved murders of our time. You are pulled in the webbing of red tape and two men who are trying to bring resolution.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Violence, Foul language, Drug-related content
FAVORITE QUOTE: A murder like that only goes unsolved if the police don’t want to solve it.
Check out the trailer below:
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