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CITY OF LIES (2020)
City of Lies poster

CAST
JOHNNY DEPP
FOREST WHITAKER
SHAMIER ANDERSON
NEIL BROWN JR.
DAYTON CALLIE
LOUIS HERTHUM
TOBY HUSS
AMIN JOSEPH
LAURENCE MASON
MICHAEL PARE
GLENN PLUMMER
SHEA WHIGHAM

BASED ON THE NON-FICTION BOOK BY
RANDAL SULLIVAN

SCREENPLAY BY
CHRISTIAN CONTRERAS

PRODUCED BY
PAUL BRENNAN
STUART MANASHIL
MIRIAM SEGAL

DIRECTED BY
BRAD FURMAN

GENRE
BIOGRAPHY
CRIME
MYSTERY

RATED
AUS: MA
UK:NA
USA: R

RUNNING TIME
112 MIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City of Lies image

A true-crime thriller that engrosses with its methodical delve into murder and corruption in Los Angeles, City of Lies also boasts stellar turns from Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker, leading to questions as to why this Brad Furman directed gem of a movie has been sitting on the shelf for so long.

Russell Poole was an idealist. A Los Angeles police officer for 18 years, Poole took pride in representing an institution he believed stood for service and honour within a state torn apart by racial division, as exemplified in the LA riots of 1992. His idealism is one many can relate too. Who amongst us has not given their trust and faith in an institution, only for cracks in the walls to reveal a house of lies?

For Poole (played in City of Lies by Johnny Depp), that crack first appeared in 1997, when he was tasked to investigate the murder of Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G., who was slain a month earlier after an awards event. It was a case that turned into an obsession, and a final nail in his career and reputation, when uncomfortable questions were met by a wall of silence from his brothers in blue.

The only person who would listen to Poole’s evidence was a journalist named Randall Sullivan, whose 2002 book ‘LAbryrinth’ is the basis for City of Lies. Sullivan is reimagined in the film as Jack Jackson (Forest Whitaker), a journalist for the Los Angeles times who is dealing with a damaged reputation of his own.

Their joint investigation resulted in a conspiracy involving both the LAPD and infamous hip-hop mogul Suge Knight (along with his record label Death Row Records), which in the capable hands of director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) results in a highly engrossing, character driven, true-crime mystery thriller, that is in league with the likes of Sidney Lumet classics Serpico and Prince of the City.

Bouncing back and forth from 2015, to the investigation into Wallace’s death in 1997, Furman presents a film that is as engrossing as it is a damning indictment of the incestuous institutions – police and media especially – that have corrupted Los Angeles to its very core, proving that this City of Angels has become a playground for devils with bad intentions.

As an investigative thriller, City of Lies lays out the players, tactics, and motives behind the murder of a hip hop star, who was only 24 years old at the time of his death. Furman establishes a humanity amongst the tabloid-driven sensationalism towards the whole tragedy, as exemplified in Poole’s approach to his case not as the murder of a celebrity, but that of a young man: son, father, friend. Violeta Wallace, mother of Christopher, makes a cameo as herself.

Both Depp and Whitaker are fantastic in their roles, Depp especially strong in a “straight man” role that proves his ability to play a character although low-key in personality, holds a strong passion for justice and the pursuit of truth, a moral fibre that while making him an outstanding officer, also made him an enemy of a corrupted elite. Whitaker complies with a soul rich performance of his own, his character navigating morally dubious waters inside and out, with his industry one that sold its soul post the OJ era of sensationalism over fact.

It all makes for absolutely riveting and relevant viewing, but one which comes with a looming question: why has City of Lies yet to be released in a wider capacity? Only recently have Australian cinemas presented the film, yet the North American market remains curiously silent. One can only speculate as to why, yet as City of Lies proves, corruption lurks in all quarters.

 

****

 

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