What is going on, horror fans? I’m back with another review of a brand new movie. However, this time it’s not a horror movie! Recently, I checked out Saban Film’s CITY OF LIES, which is directed by Brad Furman. The best way to describe the plot is with the synopsis below:
Based on the book, LAbyrinth, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Randall Sullivan, this compelling crime-thriller follows the investigation into the infamous murder of iconic rap artist Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G. Oscar® nominee Johnny Depp stars as determined LAPD detective Russell Poole, who spent nearly 20 years trying to solve the murder, and Oscar® and Primetime Emmy® winner Forest Whitaker as Jack Jackson, a journalist who teams up with Poole in search of the elusive truth. Together they explore why the case remains cold — and why a secret division of the LAPD is seemingly set on keeping it that way.
We’re a few months into 2021 and the dust from 2020 has hardly settled. We can faintly see a light at the end of this tunnel of shit, but we’re still in it. Taking that into consideration, what a strange time for a film like CITY OF LIES to be released. Regardless, I’m a big fan of true crime dramas, so I was excited to dig in.
CITY OF LIES is centered around the investigation of the murder of Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls. The primary character is LAPD detective Russell Poole played by Johnny Depp. I’ve always enjoyed Depp’s depiction of non-fictional characters and I think the role of Poole suited him really well. Detective Poole is a cop very dedicated to his work crossing the lines into obsession. It was refreshing to see Depp going all out in this role, which led me to believe he did his research on the case and the actual Detective who became completely obsessed with the case.
Poole is approached by journalist Jack Jackson (Forest Whitaker) who’s doing a retrospective on Biggie Smalls and his untimely death. Both Poole and Jackson cross into the same lines of obsession on the case as they go deeper into the rabbit hole of Los Angeles crime. Even sticking their noses in places that could get them hurt, i.e. insisting LAPD involvement, busting dirty cops along the way. Whitaker sold his performance easily in CITY OF LIES, showcasing yet again how he’s an amazing player. I personally love his acting and how deep he gets into his roles while still maintaining his own touch. In the film, we do have a guest extra appearance by Michael Render aka Killer Mike, well- known southern rapper, political activist for Black rights, and co-rapper to the super-duo Run The Jewels. I actually shouted at the TV in excitement to see him in the film, even though he was getting arrested by racist cops.
CITY OF LIES deeply touches on the racial division in America, especially in Los Angeles during the ’90s. One of the big things was investigating the crime within the LAPD and how finding out too much can get you hurt or at least discredited as a detective or journalist digging into the history of the dirty cops. Because of these topics, I felt it was an interesting time for a film like this to be released. I think it’s important for light to be continuously shed on the mistreatment of marginalized individuals and I was happy that it was being heavily represented in this movie. All the way up towards the end, they were pushing the obvious injustices into the frame.
Now, aside from how I felt about the film itself, I was incredibly excited about the subject matter. I’ve been a HUGE fan of Biggie my entire life. Ready To Die is one of my all-time favorite albums and has some of my favorite lines in hip hop. I’ve done my own research into the murder case and can easily see how Detective Poole became so obsessed with seeking justice for Wallace.
CITY OF LIES is a gripping thrill ride into the Los Angeles crime scene of gangs and dirty cops. Every performance is a leading example of what it means to put the pedal to the metal, and I enjoyed every single second of the film. If you’re interested in true crime, this is not a film you’ll want to overlook. You can read endless information about the case online and in books but, if you’re looking for an entertaining and fresh perspective, I suggest checking out The Last Podcast on the Left‘s series on Tupac’s and Biggie’s murders.
CITY OF LIES is currently available in theaters, but will be available on Digital and On-Demand on April 9, 2021.
Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: Nightmarish Conjurings doesn’t endorse seeing movies in theaters at this time due to the pandemic. Please consider VOD and/or Drive-In options and, if you go to the theater, please be safe.