Blu-Ray Review: Deep Cover

'John Hull' undercover

It takes a special kind of police officer to go undercover. They must have nerves of steel. Be prepared to take extreme measures in order to protect their identity and not baulk when having to do things which go against your moral compass. However, it’s a vital tool in infiltrating criminal organisations, getting the inside track on gang activities and bringing down the leaders. In Deep Cover, a policeman must put all his misgivings aside in order to crack a drug ring.

After witnessing the death of his drug-addicted father, Russell Stevens (Laurence Fishburne) has dedicated his life to eradicating this disease on society. When approached by a DEA Special Agent (Charles Martin Smith) to bring down a smuggling operation he jumps at the chance. Posing as ‘John Hull’, he teams up with an ambitious cocaine trafficker (Jeff Goldblum) in order to achieve this goal. However, the deeper Russell gets in, the harder it becomes to draw the line between right and wrong.

Steeped in neon hues, Deep Cover is an unapologetically blunt crime drama which plays with the concepts of good and evil to create a complex thriller. Whilst the language in Bill Duke’s film is frank, it exists in a world of hard-boiled criminals and unrepentant law enforcement. Fishburne and Goldblum are both good value and the prevailing stereotypes of the genre are played up for maximum effect. Deep Cover is a relic from an era of tough cops and tougher criminals.


  • New 4K digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
  • New interview with director Bill Duke
  • New conversation between film scholars Racquel J. Gates and Michael B. Gillespie about Deep Cover’s place within both the Black film boom of the early 1990s and the noir genre
  • New conversation between scholar Claudrena N. Harold and professor, DJ, and podcaster Oliver Wang about the film’s title track and its importance to the history of hip-hop
  • Panel discussion from 2018 featuring Duke and Fishburne and moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by Gillespie

Deep Cover is available on Blu-Ray as part of the Criterion Collection on 23 August.

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