city of lies (film, 2018) ↑

city of lies (film, 2018)

City of Lies follows Russell Poole, a veteran LAPD detective who was originally assigned to investigate the murder of Notorious B.I.G. in 1997. Played earnestly by Johnny Depp, Poole becomes obsessed with cracking the case and uncovering any corruption or collusion within the police department that may have hampered the investigation.

After retiring from the force frustrated, Poole teams up with an investigative journalist named Jack Jackson, portrayed with nuanced integrity by Forest Whitaker. The two men work together to pore through case files, conduct new interviews, and hunt for any leads the police may have overlooked or intentionally ignored.

Through flashbacks and scenes set in the late 2000s, the film chronicles Poole's relentless pursuit of the truth over decades. He comes to suspect the involvement of crooked LAPD officers with ties to Death Row Records, who may have wanted Biggie out of the way.

Director Brad Furman uses this non-linear format effectively to keep viewers constantly piecing together new clues and information regarding Poole's evolving theory of the case. The flashbacks featuring younger versions of the rappers felt seamless. They transported me back to the turbulent East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry of the mid-1990s.

While the actual culprits behind the murders remain publicly unknown to this day, I was gripped following Poole's trail of evidence suggesting corruption and cover-up at the highest levels of law enforcement. Depp deserves praise for bringing nuanced subtlety to the role of the determined but emotionally strained detective. His portrayal grounded the mystery in a human struggle to expose injustice. Whitaker also shined as the journalist who finds redemption in aiding Poole's quest for truth. Their on-screen chemistry carried significant dramatic weight.

Some viewers may take issue with the film's ambiguity and lack of concrete answers by the end. However, I saw this as emulating the real-life frustrating dead-ends that Poole faced in his investigation. In my opinion, the ambiguous nature of true crime stories makes them so compelling. City of Lies respects the open-ended legacy of these unresolved killings while still managing to cast doubt on the "official" police version of events. Whether or not Poole's intrepid sleuthing has solved the larger riddle, I was thoroughly entertained and moved by his perseverance against daunting odds.

Technical aspects like cinematography, editing, and production value also deserve praise. Scenes inside the LAPD felt lively yet unsettling based on crisp visuals and clever sound design. The soundtrack incorporated classic hits from Tupac and Biggie and a moody score that heightened tension. Credible grungy aesthetic choices surrounded the material in a grim yet respectful visual tone.

Overall, City of Lies earned my recommendation as a 4/5 film. It honors real lives cut short through a suspenseful drama questioning whether dark forces successfully obscured the truth. While not a flawless cinematic masterpiece, I was consistently engaged by the characters' committed search for justice against powerful opposition. Diehard fans of the slain rappers may find new context, and true crime aficionados will appreciate another compelling, unsolved case brought to the screen.