There’s no such thing as an American anymore. No Hispanics, no Japanese, no Blacks, no whites, no nothing. It’s just rich people and poor people.” That’s the line David (a slick and oily Jeff Goldblum) feeds drug kingpin Hector (René Assa) at the climactic confrontation of 1992’s Deep Cover.
But Hector knows David is just looking for something philosophical to hang his hat while trying to cut Hector out. It’s as if The Godfather’s “nothing personal, strictly business” and Bonfire of the Vanities’ “master of the universe” metastasized into a systemic cancer we’re still trying to excise.
But Deep Cover isn’t about David or Hector; it’s about the third man present: undercover narcotics agent Russell Stevens (Laurence Fishburne). Russell, under the name John Hull, hooks up with David, who has an in on a wholly synthetic designer drug, one he can peddle to the rich and the poor without having to rely on overseas imports. He’s Iago to Russell’s Othello, and David’s twice as tempting.
Directed by Bill Duke, Deep Cover is a rich and satisfying film anchored by Fishburne and Goldblum’s performances and given weight thanks to Russell’s ongoing moral crisis of surviving a world that forces you to become the worst version of yourself. It’s a movie more people ought to see. Now available on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.