City of Lies [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, Rockmond Dunbar, Neil Brown Jr., Xander Berkeley, et al / Blu-ray+Digital / R / (2018) 2021 / Saban Films)
Overview: What is worse, the crime or the cover-up? Based on the book, LAbyrinth, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Randall Sullivan, this compelling crime-thriller follows the investigation into the infamous murder of iconic rap artist Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G.
Oscar-nominee Johnny Depp stars as determined LAPD detective Russell Poole, who spent nearly 20 years trying to solve the murder, and Oscar and Primetime Emmy-winner Forest Whitaker as Jack Jackson, a journalist who teams up with Poole in search of the elusive truth.
Blu-ray Verdict: I must admit, what intrigued me about this movie was less the subject matter (I am neither a big fan of rap nor conspiracy theories), but rather the fact that it was shelved immediately after production.
It just is not that common for a big budget movie featuring A-list actors to get completely shelved - particularly in this day when Netflix and Amazon are always a way for studios to recoup production costs on movies they do not think will earn a profit.
One had to wonder whether the movie was just a complete train wreck in terms of quality, or whether the content was just too controversial for the studios involved.
So I was eager to see for myself. Having now seen it, sure, it was a little disappointing in that it is neither a train wreck (furthering nails into the coffin of Johnny Depps disappearing career), nor was it particularly explosive in terms of content.
It was, however, a rather compelling and insightful docu-look into what is believed to have happened and the aftermath thereafter, albeit one heavily sprinkled with top notch Hollywood actors, of course.
In terms of conjunctive quality, to me it is rather reminiscent of Zodiac, but lacked the pathos that Fincher was able to imbue to characters who similarly could not put an unsolved murder behind them.
In terms of content, Lt. Pooles story has been out there for quite some time and this adds nothing new.
The first half of the movie involves Depp and Whitaker reminiscing about the facts of the Christopher Biggie Smalls murder case, which are related in a series of flashback scenes to 16 years earlier.
This part of the movie is successful and engrossing, but unfortunately the second half of the movie really stalls out, as one cannot help but wonder what the two main characters have been doing over the past 15 years.
Why are they still obsessed? What leads have they been trying to turn up? What compulsions are driving them? Indeed, rather than explore this, the movie spends too long on a seemingly pointless side-plot about Pooles estrangement from his son and some minor troubles the reporter has with his boss and the police (some 16 years after the facts of the case).
The finale is as unsatisfying as the actual investigation in the murder, but again, City of Lies works when it is engrossing and educational, but falters in its follow-up and resolution.
This, and in conclusion, ultimately viewing it gave me no insight on why it was shelved as everything about this production seems like it deserved a better fate than it has subsequently received. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:
7 Deleted Scenes
Crafting the Characters in City of Lies
Audio Commentary with Director Brad Furman and Author Randall Sullivan
Some secrets just will not stay buried! City of Lies reveals all when it arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital) and DVD on June 8th, 2021 from Saban Films.
City of Lies will be available on Blu-ray (plus Digital) and DVD for the suggested retail price of $21.99 and $19.98, respectively.
City of Lies Official Trailer
Amazon Purchase Link