Having witnessed his junkie father killed Russell Stevens grows up to become a policeman and make a difference. When he is offered an undercover job by Gerald Carver he accepts and begins to build a relationship with David Jason in order to get to the main dealers. However as he is forced to deal drugs and kill to keep his cover he finds the lines between cop and criminal being lost – is he a cop pretending to be a dealer or a dealer pretending to be a cop?
Larry (as he was then) Fishburne's first lead role was a typically dark vehicle. The story is the usual one of cop losing himself when undercover, however it manages to be more than that for most of the time. Co-written by Tolkin, who wrote The Player, this naturally has a nice cynical edge to it when it looks at the US's hypocritical approach to drug control and the political links between the street hustlers and the political high rollers who court respectability. The story does eventually settle into a traditional setting but even then it works well as a thriller.
The multi-talented Bill Duke directs well with a gritty feel and a few nice touches. However several things are a bit iffy. For most of the film Fishburne's narration/voice over is a bit like a cross between Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner – it comes across as a little too dark and heavy and also explains things like we can't figure it out ourselves. However once you get into the film it's not as big a deal. My main problem lies with the characters.
Fishburne is excellent, a real model of underlying anger and violence, Goldblum is good but perhaps a little OTT on the yuppie/violence thing, but there's good support from Smith and Spin City's beautiful (and often underused – but not here) Victoria Dillard. However the two main white characters (Goldblum and Smith) are both smeared with racist insinuations – Smith appears to insult his black officers and doesn't care about the junkies, while Goldblum is fascinated about all things black and talks about them as wild beautiful beasts and loves having sex with "black'. These things aren't a major problem, but with basically only two white characters in it, it's a little worrying that both are given that edge.
However these are minor complaints that get lost with a good thriller. Fishburne excels and Duke delivers a story that is a good thriller but also has a jaded, subversive edge.
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