Deep Cover

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For the song, see Deep Cover (song). For the Dennis Potter television film, see Blade on the Feather.
Deep Cover
Theatrical poster
Directed by Bill Duke
Produced by Henry Bean
Pierre David
Written by Michael Tolkin
Henry Bean
Music by Michel Colombier
Cinematography Bojan Bazelli
Edited by John Carter
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
  • April 17, 1992 (1992-04-17)
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $16.6 million

Deep Cover is a 1992 American neo-noir crime thriller film starring Laurence Fishburne (this being the last film in which Fishburne was credited as "Larry") 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.


In Cleveland, 1972, Russell Stevens Jr. is the son of a drug addicted, alcoholic man. His father tells his son never to be like him. Stevens then witnesses his father getting shot and killed while robbing a liquor store. He swears that he will never end up the way he has.

Twenty years later, in Cincinnati, 1991, Stevens is now a police officer. Officer Stevens is recruited by DEA Special Agent Gerald Carver to go undercover on a major sting operation in Los Angeles, claiming that his criminal-like character traits will be more of a benefit undercover than they would serve him as a uniformed policeman. 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 and his uncle Hector Gúzman, a South American politician. Stevens relocates to a cheap hotel in LA and begins dealing cocaine.

One day Stevens is arrested by the devoutly religious L.A.P.D. Narcotics Detective Taft and his corrupt partner Hernández, when he buys a kilogram in a set-up by Gallegos' low-level street supplier Eddie Dudley. At his arraignment, Stevens discovers that he was sold "baby laxative" (mannitol) instead of cocaine and his case is dismissed. Stevens' self-appointed attorney David Jason, who is also a drug trafficker in Gallegos' network, rewards Stevens' silence with more cocaine and introduces Stevens to Felix Barbossa, the underboss to Gallegos. Felix realized that Eddie was working with the LAPD, which results in Felix killing him and enlisting Stevens as Eddie's replacement.

Stevens develops a romance with Betty McCutcheon, 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 and is awarded a partnership in Jason's new business venture; distribution of a synthetic chemical variant of cocaine. It turns out that Felix is working with Detective Hernández who pressures him into giving him more arrests. Felix immediately gives up Stevens, Jason, and Betty, since he views them as expendable and wants to kill Jason because of his business venture. Carver knows about the upcoming bust, but refuses to interfere forcing Stevens to violate orders and stop it himself. At the deal, Stevens exposes Felix as a police informant, which results in a vengeful Jason killing him.

Gallegos comes to meet with Jason and Stevens and informs them that they have inherited Felix's $1.8 million debt. Later that day, Stevens meets with Carver to tell him about his meeting with Gallegos. Instead Carver pulls a gun on Stevens and orders him to surrender his weapon and get in his car. Angrily, Stevens disarms Carver and forces him to reveal what's happening behind the scenes. Carver admits that the State Department is leaving Gallegos and Guzman alone because Guzman may some day be useful as a political asset to them. Stevens' disillusionment reaches its conclusion and he abandons his undercover status vowing to take down Gallegos and Guzman alone.

Stevens and Jason learn that Gallegos is going to kill them anyway, so instead of paying Gallegos, Jason and Stevens cleverly kill him and steal a van storing over a $100 million of Gallegos' cash. 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. Taft orders Stevens to surrender, but is shot and wounded by Jason. Stevens reveals to Jason that he is a police officer but Jason ignores this information and cajoles him into joining Jason and abandoning the dying Taft. 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 several bank fraud violations. 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, thus potentially ruining Guzman's and Carver´s career. Later 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.[1] It went on to make $16.6 million in North America.[2]

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".[3] 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".[4] 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".[5] 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".[6] 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".[7] 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".[8] 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".[9]


The film's soundtrack, Deep Cover, was released on April 4, 1992 by SOLAR Records and Epic 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 soundtrack was performed by Snoop Doggy Dogg (a newcomer at the time) and Dr. Dre from 1991 to 1992.


  1. ^ "No Easter Basket for Box Office : Movies: 'Basic Instinct' winds up in first place over the holiday weekend, but business so far this year is down about 9%.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-09. 
  2. ^ "Deep Cover". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 15, 1992). "Deep Cover". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 15, 1992). "Police Thriller With Layers of Issues". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  5. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (August 28, 1992). "Government Lies". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  6. ^ Travers, Peter (December 8, 2000). "Deep Cover". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  7. ^ Howe, Desson (April 17, 1992). "Deep Cover". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  8. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (April 24, 1992). "Deep Cover". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  9. ^ Johnston, Sheila (January 22, 1993). "Rackets, stings, cons and scams". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 

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