In Too Deep

USA 1999

Reviewed by Danny Leigh


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Chicago, the present. Detective Jeff Cole instructs a class of police cadets in the art of undercover work. Two years earlier, in Cincinnati, Cole approaches senior officer Preston D'Ambrosio and asks to join his undercover task force. Involved in the arrest of a Latino cocaine dealer, Cole is dispatched to infiltrate the latest operation of crime boss Dwayne Gittens, also known as God. Cole adopts a new identity as J. Reid and ingratiates himself with Gittens. After a gunfight with a pair of young criminals, Cole is pulled from his assignment by D'Ambrosio and sent to the country for a period of recuperation. There, he meets Myra, a dancer with whom he begins a relationship.

Summoned to Cincinnati by D'Ambrosio, Cole again assumes the identity of J. Reid, rapidly becoming Gittens' right-hand man. His dealings with both Myra and his senior officers suffer as a result of his adopted criminal pose. During an argument with Myra, Cole is arrested by the local police. A confrontation ensues, but D'Ambrosio allows his charge one last chance to seal Gittens' arrest. Cole accompanies Gittens to a cocaine deal, where the latter is finally captured. Cole testifies at Gittens' trial; the crime boss is sentenced to life imprisonment. Cole reunites with Myra. The pair leave for Chicago.


Right down to its title, the memory of Bill Duke's 1992 thriller Deep Cover hangs over In Too Deep like a trace of cheap cologne. Yet, despite having lifted that film's premise - black cop gets seduced by criminal life while undercover - director Michael Rymer clearly has higher aspirations than the slick, glitzy tropes of Duke's film. It's something like the complexity of Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco, notably the insight into the moral confusion suffered by a cop while working undercover, that Rymer is after.

It's an ambition that seems some way beyond the slender resources of Rymer, his script or most of his cast. The comparison In Too Deep invites so explicitly could only ever be to its detriment - for a film in which ambivalence and ambiguity are such central themes, it displays no appreciation of either (Newell's project had both in spades). While in Donnie Brasco FBI agent Joe Pistone's turmoil was exquisitely captured by Johnny Depp, here Omar Epps relies largely on changes to his hairstyle to portray the disorientation his character Jeff Cole experiences when going undercover (neatly trimmed dreadlocks as a cop; shaven head while playing the gangster).

Equally, despite briefly giving the character of crime boss Dwayne Gittens a speech in which he holds forth with some eloquence on the nature of poverty, the script loses the courage of such equivocal convictions at the very point where they might have rescued the film. Instead, we have to be shown an expedient litany of scenes in which Gittens tortures his acolytes and abuses various crackheads. Of course, these thumpingly obvious reminders that Gittens is a real bad guy make it much simpler for Rymer to dispense his easy, upbeat resolution: again look for the desperate poignancy of Donnie Brasco's ending, with the broken, betrayed gangster played by Al Pacino preparing for his mob execution, and you'll be searching in vain.

But, while this lack of subtlety compromises In Too Deep, its aura of made-for-television prosaicness also fatally diminishes it (in true film-of-the-week fashion, the pre-credits declare: "This is based on a true story"). Certainly, Rymer and director of photography Ellery Ryan handles the look of the film competently enough and the script's narrative is free of glaring logical flaws. But Rymer seems unable to work up any degree of tension or, more to the point, believability. If someone as blatantly hokey as Jeff Cole can get past a feared underworld boss like Dwayne Gittens, it's a wonder there are any criminals left.

It should therefore come as no surprise that none of the cast is at all convincing. Ironically, with Epps' prissy cop playing a double role and LL Cool J's parodic bogeyman at its centre, In Too Deep ultimately brings to mind Robert Townsend's engaging film-industry satire Hollywood Shuffle. Watching Epps implausibly vowing to "keep it real, nigga," you can't help thinking of Townsend's cry after his casting as yet another African-American superfly streetsmart criminal: "Hey, there's always work at the post office."


Michael Rymer
Paul Aaron
Michael Henry Brown
Michael Henry Brown
Paul Aaron
Director of Photography
Ellery Ryan
Dany Cooper
Production Designer
Dan Leigh
Christopher Young
©Miramax Film Corp.
Production Companies
Dimension Films presents a Suntaur Entertainment Company production
Executive Producers
Don Carmody
Bob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Jeremy Kramer
Amy Slotnick
Line Producer
Additional Photography:
Elaine Dysinger
Production Supervisor
Liz Amsden
Production Co-ordinators
Vair McPhee
Cincinnati Crew:
Sherman Weatherby
Additional Photography Co-ordinator
Page Rosenberg-Marvin
Production Manager
Joyce Kozy King
Unit Production Manager
Additional Photography:
Elaine Dysinger
Location Managers
Byron Martin
Cincinnati Crew:
Deirdre Costa
Additional Photography:
Wally Uchida
John Grant
Post-production Supervisor
Gregor Hutchison
Production Consultant
Cincinnati Crew:
Richard Jefferson
Assistant Directors
Bill Spahic
Walter Gasparovic
Rose Tedesco
Stewart Young
Jonnie Katz
Cincinnati Crew:
Kent A. Smith
Additional Photography:
Marlon Smith
Robert Ohlandt
Script Continuity
Joanne Tolley-Harwood
Additional Photography:
Jacqui Clay
Aisha Coley
Ross Clydesdale
Cincinnati Local:
Lyle Dickey
Anna S. Park
Additional Photography:
Robin Ray
Camera Operators
Harold Ortenburger
Cincinnati Crew:
Gregory Bubb
Additional Photography:
Rex Nicholson
Tim Merkel
Additional Photography:
Dave Emmerichs
Special Effects
Michael Kavanagh
Cincinnati Crew, Key:
John MacGillivray
Cincinnati Crew:
John D. Jay
Additional Photography:
Joshua Pinney
Art Director
Kenneth Watkins
Set Decorator
Sean Kirby
Set Decorators
Ken Clark
Additional Photography:
Mary Gullickson
Key Scenic Artist
Rosanna DeCampo
Costume Designer
Shawn Barton
Wardrobe Supervisor
Cincinnati Crew:
Robin Fields
Mario Cacioppo
Cincinnati Crew, Artists:
Paris R. Clayton Brown
Thomas A. Venditelli
Additional Photography, Artist:
Carol Brown
Prosthetics Design
Gordon Smith
Key Hair
Reeve Cuerrier
Hair Stylists
Cincinnati Crew:
Anne Taylor
Additional Photography:
Mishel Chandler
Main Titles Sequence Design
Dan Perri
Main Titles Digital Effects
End Titles
Blue Motel Title Design
Film Effects
Orchestra Conductor
Pete Anthony
Pete Anthony
Jon Kull
Christopher Young
Music Supervisor
Frank Fitzpatrick
Scoring Co-ordinators
David Reynolds
Konstantinos Christides
Sujin Nam
Jasper Randall
Executive Music Producers
Randy Spendlove
Frank Fitzpatrick
Supervising Music Editor
Charles Martin Inouye
Music Editors
Tanya Noel Hill
Michael T. Ryan
Synthesizer Programming
Kenneth Burgomaster
Arthur Schaer
Score Engineer/Mixer
Michael Farrow
"Quiet Storm (remix)" - Mobb Deep featuring Lil' Kim; "In Too Deep" - Nas & Nature; "The Specialist" - Ali Vegas; "Used to Me Spending" - R. Kelly (featuring Nokio and Jaz-Ming); "El Presso" - Fruko y sus tesos; "Descargo de hoy" - Cubanismo!; "El estuche" - Ateretopelados; "Thug Money" - Trick Daddy; "Bleeding from the Mouth" - Capone-N-Noreaga and The Lox; "Tear It Off" - Method Man & Redman; "Getto Jam" - Domino; "Somethin' about Love" - Imajin; "How to Rob", "Rowdy Rowdy" - 50 Cent; "Dub Murderer" - E-Day; "I Thought about You" - Miles Davis; "Dreamin'" - Jill Scott; "Unconventional Ways" - The JazzyFatNastees; "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" - Donny Hathaway; "Keys to the Range" - Jagged Edge (featuring Jermaine Dupri); "Bust a Nut" - The product G&B featuring Marie Antoinette; "Ebony Child" - Mitchel Forman; "Give Me a Reason" - Dave Hollister; "Where Ya Heart At" - Mobb Deep
Additional Sound Design
Randy Thom
Sound Mixers
Tom Mather
Additional Photography:
Ben Patrick
Re-recording Mixers
Lora Hirschberg
Mark Berger
Gary Rizzo
Kent Sparling
Daniel Pellerin
Andy Koyama
Todd Beckett
Supervising Sound Editors
Andrew Plain
Jane Tattersall
Robert Shoup
Dialogue Supervisor
Garrett Kerr
Dialogue Editors
Wayne Swingle
Fred Brennan
Richard Cadger
David Drainie Taylor
Stephen Barden
Janice Ierulli
Sean Kelly
Sound Effects Editors
David McCallum
Roderick Deogrades
Loop Group:
L.A. MadDogs
Post Sound Corporation
Kris Campbell
John 'JK' Kestler
Steve Jaszkowiak
Howard Schwartz Recording
Bill Higley
Fernando Ascan
Andy Malcolm
Goro Koyama
Ron Mellegers
Stunt Co-ordinator
Steve Lucescu
Weapons Co-ordinator
Charles Taylor
Omar Epps
Jeff Cole/J. Reid
LL Cool J
Dwayne Gittens {'God'}
Nia Long
Stanley Tucci
Preston D'Ambrosio
Hill Harper
Breezy T
Jake Weber
Daniel Connelly
Richard Brooks
David Patrick Kelly
Rick Scott
Pam Grier
Detective Angela Wilson
Veronica Webb
Ron Canada
Doctor Bratton
Robert LaSardo
Felipe Batista
Gano Grills
Ivonne Coll
Mrs Batista
Don Harvey
Jermaine Dupri
Lloyd Adams
Philip Akin
Anna Alvim
Esperanta Batista
Karina Arroyave
Richard Blackburn
officer 1
Kevin Chapman
Chris Collins
Shane Daly
Batista cop 1
Brenda Thomas Denmark
Mrs Coy
Guillermo Diaz
Miguel Batista
Aunjanue Ellis
Dolores Etienne
Sticky Fingaz
Wendii Fulford
Mrs Connelly
Brian Furlong
Batista cop 2
Catherine Goudier
Mrs D'Ambrosio
Jackie Hargrave
Mrs Johnson
Edward Heeley
Howard Hoover
officer 2
Tatum Hunter
Connelly, aged 4
Camille James
Claire Johnson
Connelly, aged 2
Hassan Iniko Johnson
Dustin Leonard
Marcus, aged 8
Jordan Leonard
Marcus, aged 3
Latoya Lesmond
female cadet
Yvette Martin
Michi Mi
Toby Proctor
red-haired cadet
Alex Restrepo
Victor Rivers
Romeo Concepcion
Stephen Graham Simpson
cop 2
David Spates
K. Dee
Lenore Thomas
Angel Torres
Katherine Trowell
Avery Kidd Waddell
Metrodome Distribution Ltd
8,725 feet
96 minutes 57 seconds
Dolby Digital/SDDS
Colour by
Super 35 [2.35:1]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011