Clown Magazine

City of Lies
Film Review

City of Lies Film Poster

City of Lies becomes a city of twists, while investigative reporter Darius Jackson (Forest Whitaker) tracks down retired Los Angeles detective Russell Poole (Johnny Depp) who investigated the bizarre death of a black undercover police officer Kevin Gains (Amin Joseph) by white undercover police officer Frank Lyga (Shea Whigham), which leads to the deaths of rap artists Biggie and Tupac.

Detective Russell Poole (Johnny Depp) and investigative reporter Darius Jackson (Forest Whitaker)
Detective Russell Poole and investigative reporter Darius Jackson

The problem in American society is that racial problems haven't been sorted out and the distrust between the different racial communities and the predominately white leadership in American institutions, including the Los Angeles police department.

Some Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers become involved in protecting Suge Knight the founder and boss of Death Row Records and his rap artists including his protégé and rising star Tupac.

Unfortunately, while there are many police officers who want to do an honest job and solve crimes, there is a small minority who are corrupt and encourage criminal behaviour.

But the problem of not solving the shooting to death of Biggie was because of corrupt black officers and the LAPD didn't want another case of accusations of racism especially after the Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of the white LAPD police officers involved in the case, which caused riots across Los Angeles in 1992.

Though two LAPD police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King were convicted in a civil case that the federal government brought, and Rodney King was awarded $3.8 million in damages.

Rodney King got several convictions prior to being stopped in a high-speed car chase with police on the night he was beaten by the LAPD police officers, and years later he was arrested for several offences, and had addiction problems to medication and illegal drugs.

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Rodney King suffered heart failure while swimming in his pool and as the coroner stated, “He [Rodney King did not have the strengthen to save himself and died by drowning”.

It seems a tragic ending to a man who was tortured by his demons in a city with demons, especially at the time the Los Angeles Police Department.

Since Rodney King's death his family have stated that Rodney King was not anti-police and only wanted people to get along, despite suffering broken bones in the beating by the four LAPD police officers that fateful and notorious night.

But there is a conflict of interest because in American Police Departments police officers can moonlight as 'security' in supermarkets, shops, wealthy gated communities and being bodyguards to the rich and especially the famous.

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The way the film's storyline is constructed is that it flips backwards and then to present day, so those tasked with investigating the Biggie and Tupac shootings were serving detectives and police officers and then retired but still wanted to solve this mysterious notorious case.

Detective Russell Poole was coming up against a wall and eventually silence and then he was taken off the case in solving the death of an undercover police officer, because the leadership in the LAPD did not want him to connect this death to Suge Knight and the deaths of Biggie and Tupac.

The film gives you the same frustration as Detective Russell Poole and the mother of Biggie, Voletta Wallace, and you wonder if this film will come up with some idea of what really happened to both rap artists and why they both got shot to death.

The atmosphere created in the film is quite dry, but it does come up with the major scenes of what this biopic film is about exactly to the actual footage of this public 'unsolved' case.

Though justice was not solved for both deaths of and Tupac, it forced the leadership of the Los Angeles Police Department to round up all the corrupt detectives and police officers in the Rampart scandal and were part of the anti-gang LAPD unit, Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH), which was later dissolved, even some senior members of the LAPD, where some of them got prison sentences.

Two police officers in the film and main suspect of killing Tupac - David Mack, later got convicted for a bank robbery, and Rafael Pérez had several run-ins with the law and was sent to prison several times.

David Mack and Rafael Pérez have since cleaned up their act as far as reports go and live better lives.

The deaths of Tupac and Biggie have still not been solved.


City of Lies on Blu-ray DVD