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Awesome: 12.9%
Worth A Look: 25.81%
Just Average: 22.58%
Pretty Crappy38.71%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 7 user ratings

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In Too Deep
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by Chef ADogg

"I'm drunk on revenge, muthafucka!"
4 stars

I walked into "In Too Deep" expecting very little--Omar Epps doin' his thang, L.L. Cool J acting badass, and some stylish, moderately enjoyable direction courtesy of Michael Rymer. But, when the credits rolled and it was time to hit the stop button, I had a big fat smile on my face. This movie rocked it. Big time.

I know I'm not the first person to observe that ghetto movies have been failing lately, but I think I'm one of the very few who actually wish the genre would come swinging back. I fondly remember that period in the early nineties after John Singleton's "Boys N The Hood" commercially revived the genre of African American cinema and a stream of hardcore gangsta flicks poured from the gates of Hollywood--"Boyz," "Menace II Society," "Juice." These were ghetto movies, but they were also smart, socially conscious dramas. In my opinion, they hold their own with any films released in that decade.

But then a funny thing happened--a formula was established, the films grew increasingly tiresome, and the genre is all but dead now.

It gives me great pleasure, then, to report that "In Too Deep" is a fat breath of fresh air. The story is simple: Epps plays Jeff Cole, an undercover cop struggling to bring down a successful inner city drug ring while maintaining his sanity. It would have been easy for all involved to simply slack off and deliver "Donnie Brasco"-lite, but this is a film that aims for more. That's why it's so damn good, even when individual elements refuse to gel.

The success starts with the script. Michael Henry Brown and Paul Aaron craft a kicky narrative that owes as much to "Reservoir Dogs" as it does "Menace II Society"; the story is told through a series of interlocking segments, brought together in the last scene. While the structure isn't exactly the heighth of cinematic brilliance, it is a sign that the makers of "In Too Deep" were trying. The approach doesn't always work, but they get effort points even in the moments when the film falters.

Rymer, in his fourth film, brings to the table a boatload of energy and even more style; the direction manages to remain consistently eye-catching without ever crossing the line into distracting. Rymer simply has the eye for this line of work. All things considered, though, I would have liked to see him develop some set pieces--the introduction between Epps and L.L. Cool J, for instance, could have been truly memorable with a few more dollops of tension. It's wince-inducingly odd to watch a scene featuring two volatile gangstas, some boxing gloves, and a Method Man song NOT rock ass.

All complaints dissipate, though, when Epps and L.L. are front and center, strutting their stuff. In the last few years, we've watched Epps grow into quite an actor; look for him as one of the big matinee stars of the new millennium. In just about every scene of "In Too Deep," he's at once seductive AND prickly--smooth when he keeps his cool, sexy when he shows his claws. Like I said, he's gonna be big.

L.L. Cool J can't really compete, dramatically, but he enjoys himself nonetheless and is surprisingly effective near the end of the picture. In the film's one truly brilliant sequence, he savagely assaults a pair of unsuspecting crackheads--while his baby son waits quietly in the background. The scene is horrific, yes, but that's not why it works; the power comes from the simple, unforced way in which it's delivered.

That, in essence, is the key to the whole film's appeal. Michael Rymer and crew do a bang-up job of reinvigorating the ghetto genre because they make no claim to any social or thematic relevance; the messages that they deliver spring from the story itself, not the outside world.

"In Too Deep" is flawed. Sometimes very much so. But it's unpretentious, thrilling, and fun--not to mention a big step in the direction of quality African American films.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1981&reviewer=123
originally posted: 04/02/00 01:33:00
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell engrossing flick 4 stars
4/11/03 Jack Sommersby Good acting and direction and super lighting make this play better than it should. 3 stars
5/29/02 T this is a great film. Omar and LL are the shiznit 5 stars
9/01/01 Kenny Thejet One of the best and intriguing movie I've seen last years, Omar Epps great carachter. 5 stars
3/19/00 arnold great movie,i was surprised 5 stars
9/12/99 Mr Showbiz Not a blaxploitation rip off, but a gritty, well acted urban drama with lots of humanity. 4 stars
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  25-Aug-1999 (R)



Directed by
  Michael Rymer

Written by
  Paul Aaron
  Michael Henry Brown

  Omar Epps
  Stanley Tucci
  Pam Grier
  Nia Long
  Jake Weber

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