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Brad Furman
Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, Toby Huss
Writing Credits:
Christian Contreras

Russell Poole and Jack Jackson investigate the murder of rapper Notorious BIG and discover potential crime among the LAPD.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 6/8/2021

• Audio Commentary with Director Brad Furman and Author Randall Sullivan
• “Crafting the Characters” Featurette
• 7 Deleted Scenes


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City of Lies [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 30, 2021)

Given its bland thriller title, would one expect 2018’s City of Lies to offer a tale related to the murder of Notorious BIG? Nope, but that’s what we get.

Based on Randall Sullivan’s 2002 book LAbyrinth, the film takes us to 2015. Back in 1997, LAPD Detective Russell Poole (Johnny Depp) works the investigation into Biggie’s death.

However, Poole never gets a bead on the assailant, so in 2015, the case remains cold. When journalist Jack Johnson (Forest Whitaker) approaches him, the now-retired Poole reluctantly agrees to work with him on the crime and try to finally connect the dots.

Since Lies wrapped in 2018, why did it need three years to plop into my Blu-ray player? Apparently some controversies impacted the original plans, but oddly, Lies did get a 2019 release – both theatrically and on video – in Italy.

So the question remains: why did Lies not hit US screens until 2021 when it emerged elsewhere two years earlier? That I can’t answer, but I suspect the studio involved simply didn’t have much confidence in it.

Perhaps some of that stems from the damage done to Depp’s reputation over the last three years. While not truly persona non grata in 2021, issues related to accusations of domestic abuse and other concerns definitely hurt his career.

Of course, it’s also possible that the studio sat on Lies because they didn’t think they had a very good movie on their hands and didn’t want to bother with it. I can’t quibble with that, as Lies brings us a pretty mediocre film.

The biggest issue stems from the movie’s general lack of focus. As Lies hops from 2015 to 1997 and back again, it fails to main consistency or flow.

An absence of real narrative thrust becomes an issue as well. We get a movie that attempts a major exposé of corruption and scandal but that just seems somewhat flat and meandering too much of the time.

Really, I think Lies probably bites off more than it can chew. With such a broad, wide-ranging story to be told, something more than a single 112-minute movie seems necessary to truly serve the material.

Instead, we get the Reader’s Digest version, one that seems both rushed and lethargic. While Lies breezes through the investigation without much real depth, it also shows little sense of urgency, as we never get the impression it covers important events.

Lies boasts a good cast, but none add much to their thin roles. In addition to Whitaker and Depp, we find solid performers like Toby Huss, Shea Whigham, Xander Berkeley and others.

Unfortunately, none find much to do with their parts. In particular, the pairing of Whitaker and Depp disappoints, as they fail to find much chemistry or connection.

That said, the main issue remains the movie’s messy era-hopping narrative and general absence of narrative momentum or depth. City of Lies comes with the bones of a solid drama/thriller, but the end result fails to muster much heat.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

City of Lies appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, the transferred looked good.

Sharpness was generally fine. A little softness occurred at times, mainly in flashbacks, which could lean gauzy, but those didn’t become a concern. Overall definition seemed solid.

I noticed no jagged edges or moiré effects, and the presentation lacked apparent edge haloes or other artifacts. I also saw no print flaws, as the movie always seemed clean.

In terms of colors, Lies went with a dingy blue-green much of the time, apparently to reflect the flashbacks and the smoggy LA setting. The colors looked fine within the design parameters.

In addition, blacks were dark and tight, while low-light shots were decent; some could be a bit dense, but they weren’t bad. This was a generally positive presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it added breadth to the experience. The movie didn’t deliver a rock-em-sock-em soundscape, but it managed to open up well enough, especially during the occasional violent sequences.

The emphasis on general environment remained, and that was fine. I felt the soundfield fit the material.

Audio quality always pleased. Speech remained natural and concise, with no edginess or other flaws.

Music sounded full and dynamic, while effects came across as accurate and clear. All of this suited the film and earned a solid “B”.

A few extras appear, and we get an audio commentary from director Brad Furman and author Randall Sullivan. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific chat – mostly, as occasional notes get dropped in from separate interviews.

Furman and Sullivan cover the source book and its adaptation, facts and liberties, story/characters, cast and performances, photography, music, sets and locations, editing, and connected domains.

Expect a fairly good but not great commentary. On the positive side, we learn a reasonable amount about the production.

On the negative side, I hoped for more about the actual case involved, especially since Sullivan comes along for the ride. Unfortunately, we only find sporadic nuggets that dig into the investigation. This still becomes a fairly useful piece, but it doesn’t work as well as anticipated.

Crafting the Characters runs 12 minutes, 14 seconds and offers notes from Furman and actor Johnny Depp. They tell us about story/characters and cast/performances in this reasonably informative chat.

Seven Deleted Scenes fill a total of nine minutes, 50 seconds. These mix exposition as well as some character notes related to Jack. None of them feel especially substantial.

Based on one of the most famous murders of the last 30 years, City of Lies comes with a potentially compelling story. Unfortunately, the film lacks the depth and impact it needs to flesh out the subject matter in an appropriate manner. The Blu-ray offers good picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. Lies fails to live up to its potential.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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