Deep Cover

Deep Cover
Deep Cover

Theatrical poster
Directed by Bill Duke
Produced by Henry Bean
Pierre David
Written by Michael Tolkin
Henry Bean
Narrated by Laurence Fishburne
Starring Laurence Fishburne
Jeff Goldblum
Music by Michel Colombier
Cinematography Bojan Bazelli
Editing by John Carter
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) April 17, 1992
Running time 107 minutes
Country USA
Language English
Box office $16,639,799 (USA)

Deep Cover is a 1992 crime thriller film starring Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum and directed by veteran actor Bill Duke. It is also notable for its theme song of the same name, composed by Dr. Dre and the then-newcomer Snoop Doggy Dogg.



Cincinnati Police Officer Russell Stevens (Laurence Fishburne) is recruited by DEA Special Agent Gerald Carver (Charles Martin Smith) to go undercover on a major sting operation in Los Angeles. Stevens poses as drug dealer "John Hull" in order to infiltrate and work his way up the network of the west coast's largest drug importer, Anton Gallegos (Arthur Mendoza). Stevens relocates to a cheap hotel in Los Angeles and begins buying and selling cocaine in order to establish himself as a street dealer. He meets crack cocaine addict Belinda Chacón (Kamala Lopez-Dawson), a struggling single-mother who tries to sell her son James to Stevens for money to buy drugs.

Stevens is arrested by L.A.P.D. Narcotics Detective Taft (Clarence Williams III) and his corrupt partner Hernández (Julio Oscar Mechoso) when he buys a kilogram in a set up by Gallegos' low-level street supplier Eddie Dudley (Roger Guenveur Smith). At his arraignment, Stevens discovers that he was sold "baby laxative" (mannitol) not cocaine and his case is dismissed. Stevens' attorney David Jason (Jeff Goldblum), who is also a drug trafficker in Gallegos' network, rewards Stevens for not snitching by supplying him with twice as much cocaine as he purchased. Jason then introduces Stevens to Felix Barbossa (Gregory Sierra), the underboss to Gallegos, who subsequently murders Eddie for his betrayal and enlists Stevens as Eddie's replacement.

Stevens develops a romance with Jason's associate Betty McCutcheon (Victoria Dillard), the manager of an art dealership which serves as a front to launder Jason's drug money profits. When one of Stevens' dealers is murdered by a rival dealer named Ivy, Stevens kills him in retaliation and is awarded a partnership in Jason's new business venture; distribution of a highly addictive chemical variant of cocaine. Detective Hernández pressures Felix into setting up a deal with Jason, Stevens and Betty and then selling them out to save himself. Carver refuses to interfere with the bust when Stevens requests, forcing Stevens to violate orders and stop it himself. At the deal, Stevens exposes Felix as a police informant which results in him being killed by Jason as they flee from officers surveilling the deal.

After killing Felix, Gallegos comes to personally meet with Jason and Stevens and informs them they have inherited Felix's $1.8 million debt. Stevens sends Betty away for her safety and then collects the money and goes to meet with Gallegos. Instead of paying Gallegos, Jason and Stevens opt to kill him and steal a van storing over a $100 million of Gallegos' cash. The DEA pulls the plug on Stevens' operation because Hector Guzman, the powerful South American politician who's influence allows Gallegos freedom to import the drugs, may someday be useful as a political asset to the State Department. Stevens becomes disillusioned and abandons his undercover status; vowing to go on his own to take down Guzman by any means necessary. Jason and Stevens invite Guzman to a shipyard and offer to return 80% of Gallegos' money if he agrees to invest the remaining 20% in their synthetic cocaine distribution operation. Detective Taft, who has been tailing Stevens, interrupts the deal but is unable to arrest Guzman because of his diplomatic status. Guzman flees the scene before Taft's backup arrives and Jason kills Taft, despite Stevens' pleas to let him go. Stevens then reaffirms himself as a police officer and attempts to arrest Jason, but is forced to kill him when Jason draws his gun.

Afterwards, Carver leverages Stevens by threatening to charge Betty with numerous bank fraud violations in the money laundering operation. In exchange for his favorable testimony of Carver, the DEA, and their sting operation, Stevens can prevent Betty's prosecution. Stevens agrees, but during his testimony to the House Judiciary Subcommittee, he produces a video tape of the incriminating conversation with Guzman at the shipyard. Some time later, Stevens accompanies James to his mother Belinda's grave (she died of a drug overdose) where he contemplates what to do with the $11 million of Gallegos' money that he secretly kept.



Deep Cover was released on April 17, 1992 in 901 theaters grossing $3.4 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $16.6 million in North America.[1]

The majority of critics responded favorably towards Deep Cover. It holds a certified "Fresh" rating of 84% on film review website Rotten Tomatoes and 73 metascore on Metacritic. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and praised the voice-over narration as "poetic and colorful. That's part of the process elevating the story from the mundane to the mythic".[2] Janet Maslin, in her review for The New York Times, praised the "quietly commanding Larry Fishburne and the wry Jeff Goldblum, who make an interestingly offbeat team".[3] In his review for The Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "What emerges is a powerhouse thriller full of surprises, original touches, and rare political lucidity".[4] Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers wrote, "Duke (A Rage in Harlem) makes the perks of the drug lifestyle palpably seductive. But this time there's something new in the snortscrew-slay formula: a working conscience".[5] However, in his review for The Washington Post, Desson Howe wrote, "With Boyz n the Hood, Fishburne broke through to the big time. Here, his acting career takes a step backwards".[6] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B-" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "The movie peels away every layer of hope, revealing a red-hot core of nihilistic despair. Fishburne, with his hair-trigger line readings and deadly reptilian gaze, conveys the controlled desperation of someone watching his own faith unravel. And Goldblum reveals a new dimension of comic rottishness".[7] In her review for The Independent, Sheila Johnston wrote, "The disappointment of Night and the City has left some critics lamenting that film noir is dead in the water, but Deep Cover displays many hallmarks of the genre, down to the diffuse paranoia (perhaps the entire operation is a high-level Washington cover-up). It was the most unexpected pleasure to arrive here in many a month".[8]


The film's soundtrack, Deep Cover, was released on April 4, 1992 by SOLAR Records, containing a mix of hip hop, reggae and R&B tracks, peaking at #166 on the Billboard 200 and #9 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

The song "Deep Cover" from the soundtrack was also released as a single, American rapper Dr. Dre's debut single, reaching #4 on the US rap chart. It was later included on his 1996 compilation album First Round Knock Out.


  1. ^ "Deep Cover". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 15, 1992). "Deep Cover". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 15, 1992). "Police Thriller With Layers of Issues". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  4. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (August 28, 1992). "Government Lies". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  5. ^ Travers, Peter (December 8, 2000). "Deep Cover". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  6. ^ Howe, Desson (April 17, 1992). "Deep Cover". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  7. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (April 24, 1992). "Deep Cover". Entertainment Weekly.,,310264,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  8. ^ Johnston, Sheila (January 22, 1993). "Rackets, stings, cons and scams". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 

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