In Too Deep (1999) starring Omar Epps, LL Cool J, Nia Long, Stanley Tucci, Hill Harper, Jake Weber, Pam Grier directed by Michael Rymer Movie Review

In Too Deep (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Omar Epps as J. Reid in In Too Deep (1999)

Crossing the Line

"In Too Deep" is an undercover movie, a tale of a cop who goes undercover to try and bust open a gang bossed by a drug dealer who calls himself God. Now there's nothing special about that, undercover cop movies are ten a penny but where "In Too Deep" becomes interesting is in what it is trying to achieve. Here is a movie which almost seems more interested in highlighting the difficulties of going undercover, not just that it can skew your rationale but how you have to react in a split moment so that you don't cause suspicion but also don't break the law. It almost works and Omar Epps does a good job as playing the cop who finds himself going in to deep and coming close to crossing the line but there is too much normal, too much cliche which prevents it from truly becoming good.

Having grown up on the streets recently qualified cop Jeff Cole (Omar Epps) goes undercover as J. Reid, proving himself to his superiors on small busts till eventually he is given the big one. The big one is a Cincinnati drug dealer who goes by the name of God (LL Cool J - Deep Blue Sea) and has been untouchable as those who have gone undercover before either get made or can't cope and get out. But the deeper Jeff gets involved and the closer he gets to God the harder it is for him as loyalty and friendship is put to the test.

LL Cool J as Dwayne Gittens in In Too Deep (1999)

So let me tell you what is good about "In Too Deep" first and that is that it interweaves into the story what risks there are for an undercover cop. Now I am no cop so I don't know how much truth there is but I am sure there is that issue of having to convince those you are trying to get in with that you're not a cop whilst not breaking the law by killing people. That leads to some really nice scenes as not only do we see Jeff lecturing rookies on having to make a decision in a split second but we also see how he deals with the issue himself whilst undercover. It is this side of the movie, the almost look at what it takes and the dangers of being an undercover cop which makes it briefly fascinating.

I say briefly because unfortunately "In Too Deep" becomes cliche when the focus settles on whether or not Jeff is getting in too deep and becoming too close to the men he is trying to bring down. It has been done before and done since and whilst it makes for an entertaining drama it does feel all a bit too familiar as you know at some point Jeff is going to have to chose between busting the bad guys or siding with them. Throw in some cliches from a romantic lead to the state department official who cares more about getting the bust that for Jeff's sanity and you pretty much know how it will play out.

What you certainly get with "In Too Deep" is some surprisingly big impact scenes from a boxing scene which sees Jeff hold the pads whilst God punches them with such ferocity you wonder how his hands don't break. And then there is the pool stick scene and that gives the phrase "In Too Deep" a whole different meaning. To be honest "In Too Deep" is not as violent as I expected, there are shootings and graphic beatings but I have seen worse, a lot worse.

Where "In Too Deep" does get it right is in the casting and in particular Omar Epps who delivers such a real character that you end up watching him more than watching what happens in a scene. There is no doubt that Epps is aided by a solid supporting cast which includes LL Cool J, Stanley Tucci and Nia Long but it is Epps delivering character, a mix of cliche with some originality which makes the movie tick.

What this all boils down to is that "In Too Deep" was a pleasant surprise because whilst a huge chunk of the movie is your regular undercover cop story the elements which look at the risks, dangers and issues of crossing the line make it far more interesting.