CITY OF LIES
(director: Brad Furman; screenwriters: based on the book LAByrinth by Randall Sullivan/Christian Contreras; cinematographer: Monika Lenczewska; editor: Leo Trombetta; music: Chris Hajian; cast: Johnny Depp (Russell Poole), Forest Whitaker (Jack Jackson), Toby Huss (Det. Fred Miller), Shea Whigham (Frank Lyga), Amin Joseph (Kevin Gaines), Shamier Anderson (David Mack), Dayton Callie (Lt. O’Shea), Neil Brown Jr. (Rafael Perez), Xander Berkeley (Edwards), Rockmund Dunbar (Dreadlocks), Michael Paré (Det. Varney), Glenn Plummer (Psycho Mike), Peter Greene (Commander Fasulo), Obba Babatundé (Chief of Police), Voletta Wallace (Voletta Wallace), Kevin Chapman (Officer Leeds); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Miriam Segal, Paul Brennan, Stuart Manashil; Global Road Entertainment/Saban Films; 2018)
“Though an artless film, it has some spunk.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s based on the 2002 nonfiction book, LAByrinth, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Randall Sullivan. Director Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer”/”Runner Runner”) and writer Christian Contreras, wrestle with it as a police procedural docudrama that tries to explain the unsolved 1990s murders of the rap artists Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G. or also known as Biggie Smalls) and Tupac Shakur. There were other films and articles on the subject, which also have raised numerous theories but with no definitive answers.
The Furman film went to the can in 2018 but wasn’t released until recently. It has a retired police detective opine, “A case like this only goes unsolved if the police don’t want to solve it.”
I was not a follower of the murder tale as it made the headlines or of the rappers, but I can buy into what the film believes because I believe the film was on the money by following the views and the research from its well-done source book.
Though an artless film, it has some spunk, as its protagonist, the retired LA detective, Russell Poole (Johnny Depp), living in a dumpy apartment that has details and newspaper clippings of the Wallace killing from a few decades ago on his walls.
Also still obsessed with this murder case is the journalist Jack (Forest Whitaker), an invented character, who won a journalism prize for an article that suggested Shakur’s murder was connected to an East Coast-West Coat rivalry—and was directly connected to Wallace (which was proven wrong).
Poole suspects without proof that the L.A.P.D. was actively involved in Wallace’s killing and that it led to an eventual cover-up, as he battles police corruption by trying to get evidence for his beliefs.
We learn that Poole’s nasty superiors don”t appreciative his efforts to connect the department with the murder and have forced him to resign two weeks before his pension.
It’s a gritty but bleak crime film that in an authentic way tells us in the face of police corruption how justice suffers.
REVIEWED ON 3/31/2021 GRADE: B–