Movie Review

More questions than answers about Notorious BIG's murder in 'City of Lies'

Despite strong performances by Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker, there's a lack of drama and suspense that hangs too heavily over much of this film

03 November 2019 - 00:00 By
Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker in 'City of Lies', on circuit now.
Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker in 'City of Lies', on circuit now.
Image: Supplied

You would think that a police thriller starring Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker, based on a bestselling book about the investigation into the 1997 murder of rap legend Notorious BIG, would be worth some sort of publicity, some moderate hype and a decent spoonful of expectation.

But thanks to the off-screen behaviour of Depp during the film's shooting in 2017, director Brad Furman's City of Lies quietly arrives on SA screens this week with no word on whether it will ever see a release in the US.

Thanks to the off-screen behaviour of Depp during the film's shooting in 2017, 'City of Lies' quietly arrives on SA screens with no word on whether it will ever see a release in the US

That's because Depp allegedly flew into a rage on set and punched the film's location manager, which led to the location manager instituting a lawsuit against the film's producers.

In the time since the announcement of the shelving of the film last year, the same story territory covered by the film's adaptation of the book Labyrinth by Randall Sullivan has been explored in more detail by the recent TV drama Unsolved.

Depp plays dedicated and justice-driven LAPD homicide detective Russell Poole who becomes convinced that the murder of Notorious BIG (real name Christopher Wallace) is linked to a ring of crooked cops working for gangster-turned-record mogul Suge Knight.

It's a conviction that sees Poole repeatedly coming up against brick walls and eventually stigmatised and kicked to the curb but hasn't stopped him from doggedly continuing to pursue the investigation two decades later when he's found by journalist Jack Jackson (Forest Whitaker).

WATCH | The trailer for 'City of Lies'

Johnson convinces Poole to team up and crack the case and together they begin to start to tie up the loose ends and put the pieces of the twisty puzzle together.

Though Depp delivers a suitably gruff and dogged performance and is ably supported by Whitaker's genial but increasingly obsessed hack looking for the scoop that will put him back on top, there's a lack of drama and suspense that hangs too heavily over much of the film.

The story of Poole and his decades-long search for answers to what still remains one of popular culture's most famous murders is certainly one worthy of telling but Furman's film fails to deliver the punches that it's star so ill-advisedly administered to its location manager and ends up leaving you with far more questions than answers.


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