Review by Camden Ferrell
Based on the Pulitzer-nominated book LAbyrinth by Randall Sullivan, City of Lies is a new crime film from director Brad Furman. A film that was supposed to be released in 2018 but was delayed due to controversy and lawsuits, it is now finally getting its wide release this year. This movie takes a fascinating and significant case and fails to elevate the story past a bland and meandering crime film without much to say.
This film follows LAPD detective Russel Poole in 1997 as he works on the investigation of the murder of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. He works alongside journalist, Jack Jackson, in order to learn the truth and grant justice to the victims. These are very famous events with a lot of real-life mystery surrounding them, so it had the potential to be a compelling film.
The main problem with the film is that it doesn’t seem remotely interested in its subjects. There is a noticeably lack of energy from every scene, and it is increasingly dull. It’s a lot of continuous exposition that doesn’t emulate the charisma and confidence needed to carry a good detective story. The film obviously has empathy towards its victims, but it isn’t particularly invested in them.
The acting in this film can be decent. It’s led by Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker, two highly established actors. While their acting is fine, it’s obvious that they are both out of their element in this film. Their chemistry does lead to some interesting interactions, but other than that, the performances aren’t anything spectacular.
The film aims to uncover the corruption in the LAPD, but its message is so convoluted that it becomes a narrative mess. It’s not hard to follow, but it does juggle too many balls at once, and this leads to central themes becoming muddled and certain story elements getting lost in the mix. The movie could have greatly benefitted from some more concise execution and storytelling.
Running nearly two hours, this movie consistently dragged. It treats its own story like a chore, and this is evident to the viewer. Scenes are paced slowly with no real purpose, and there is a lack of urgency in its scenes that don’t match the story or the performances of its leads. It’s a forgettable retelling of unforgettable events.
Despite the film’s flaws, it’s not awful. It just settles into its own mediocrity and is fairly bland. It has a great basis and some decent performances, but it squanders its immense potential, considering how iconic these two rappers were to the community. Its noble in its pursuit of exposing the widespread corruption in law enforcement, but it’s nothing new.
City of Lies is a forgettable crime film that lacks the energy needed to tell the story of this investigation. Depp and Whitaker aren’t their best, but they give decent performances that are overshadowed by the confounding narrative and tepid execution.
City of Lies is in theaters March 19.