Director Brad Furman explores the murders of rap legends Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. in Saban Films City of Lies. Christian Contreras bases his screenplay on LAbyrinth by Randall Sullivan. Johnny Depp portrays famed Los Angeles Police Department detective Russell Poole of the Robbery-Homicide division. Poole’s latest assignment is an investigation into the murder of undercover cop Kevin Gaines by fellow police officer Frank Lyga during a heated road rage incident.
Kevin Gaines’s shooting causes a domino effect that leads to Poole becoming involved in the Notorious B.I.G.G murder investigation and later the Rampart scandal. Meanwhile, reporter Jack Jackson reporter desperate to save his reputation and career. In search of the truth, the two team up and unravel a growing web of institutional corruption and lies. Relentless in their hunt, these two determined men threaten to uncover the conspiracy and crack the foundation of the L.A.P.D. and an entire city.
City Of Lies script was part of 2015’s Hollywood Blacklist of the “most liked” unmade scripts.
There were rumors that Sylvester Stallone was going to portray Russell Poole. For whatever reason, Johnny Deep ended up in the role, and the film was due to hit theaters in the fall of 2018. A month before the actual release, the film received a release delay for reasons I will not get into. Finally three almost three years later, the film hits theaters.
In the lead roles, Johnny Depp and Forrest Whitaker have great chemistry. Both men bring their usual bravado to the roles and play well off each other. For my Hip Hop heads, though, I want to point out no actors are portraying Tupac Shakur or The Notorious B.I.G. I appreciated that Brad Furman took this approach. Seeing the icons on stage again may have taken away from what the film was trying to accomplish.
The film does not delve into any arcs for the supporting characters. That is a shame because the brief time that some of the supporting actors have was great. Rafal Perez (Neil Brown Jr.), David Mack (Shamier Anderson), and Kevin Gaines (Amin Joseph) provided some of the best moments in the film. I also enjoyed seeing Glenn Plummer pop up briefly. When a movie has a release date delay, it is usually the sign of a stinker, but honestly, City of Lies is not that bad. However, City of Lies may run into comparison to the miniseries Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G, which aired on the USA network back in 2018.
The miniseries went a little more into depth about the two rap giants’ corruption and slaying. At the same time, City Of Lies did not offer anything I did not already know. Therefore, I will recommend City Of Lies for fans of Depp and Whitaker, in addition to those who have not seen Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.
Final Grade: C+
City of Lies opens in limited theaters on March 19th, with the Digital and On-Demand release set for April 9th.