City of Lies (2018) was a biographical crime/drama based on the non-fiction book LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murder of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., the Implication of Death Row Records’ Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal written by Randall Sullivan. The movie was directed by Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Infiltrator), starring Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker, about the late Los Angeles Police Detective Russell Poole (Johnny Depp), who was most famously known for investigating the murder of American rapper, Notorious B.I.G.. Based on a True Story, City of Lies tells the narrative of Detective Poole and how he teamed up with journalist Jack Jackson (Forest Whitaker) to solve the case behind the murder of Christopher “Biggie” Wallace and fellow rapper, 2Pac. The film was mysteriously shelved, becoming lost in the shadows, and ultimately scrapped of a studio release while indefinitely locked inside of a vault, off-limits to the eyes of every moviegoer on the planet.
Initially, the justification behind the films infinite deferment by the distribution company, Global Road Entertainment, was geared toward the claims that a crew member filed a lawsuit against Johnny Depp, due to allegations of assault on-set during production, and the controversy that ensued publicly, is what caused the films shelving, deeming it ineligible for release. Whether or not this narrative maintains merit is irrelevant at this juncture, considering the likelihood that City of Lies will never be released, in theaters, streaming services or Blu-ray. Randal Sullivan’s book contains a wide variety of interviews with Detective Russell Poole – the character portrayed by Depp – who deciphered startling information that provided tremendous insight into the involvement of Death Row Records’ Boss Suge Knight being linked to the murder of Christopher Wallace (Notorious B.I.G.), in conjunction with ties to the Los Angeles Police Department.
According to an article on the Daily Beast, Sullivan said something incredibly profound. “The Los Angeles Police Department is the most politicized police department in the country, and its relationships with financial powers and political powers in the city, and in the state, and even in the country are, I think, unprecedented,” Sullivan said. “I saw the way they were able to marshal resources to oppose making this movie…There may have been other things, I don’t think it was based mainly or entirely on political pressure, but [DreamWorks was] clearly scared by the things they were getting told, they were getting scared off this project.” Sullivan was probably referring to the times this story had A-List actors attached to it in the past – like Leonardo DiCaprio. At one point, back in 2003, it was reported that Sylvester Stallone was attached to star as Detective Russell Poole.
Despite all of the fingers pointed toward the conspiracies involved behind-the-scenes in shelving this film due to its reported negative publicity for Johnny Depp, in conjunction with a theory behind the film’s blatant blaming of the murders on the LAPD, the release of City of Lies would have put the city of Los Angeles and its police department with an imminent threat and a tremendous risk of turmoil, which would have ultimately caused political uproars in addition to vexations for the film studios and essentially anyone involved in the making of the film (if it hadn’t already). According to the same article at the Daily Beast, the LAPD ultimately denied any involvement with its position to be for or against the release of this film.
Moreover, it’s still a transfixing mystery to fathom, considering how a film of such magnitude will, more than likely, never be seen by audiences, due to the enormity of its quandaries, causing dissensions with conspiracy theories tying the LAPD with two murders of prominent West/East coast rappers in the ’90s that rivaled within warring record label companies (Bad Boy/Death Row), while occurring 6-months apart from each other: first with Tupac Amaru Shakur on September 13, 1996 followed by Christopher “Biggie” Wallace on March 9, 1997.
From what is presented in the movie trailer for City of Lies, it appears as though Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker were fully invested in telling the controversial story. “A murder like that only goes unsolved, if the police don’t want to solve it.” Russell Poole (Johnny Depp) says in the trailer. “Biggie didn’t have 2Pac killed.” Jack Jackson (Forest Whitaker) says. “If we can prove a connection between a cop and Biggie’s murder, it would not only break the LAPD…it would ruin the city.” Obviously, a film of this magnitude would spread to the masses and disseminate vast amounts of information and/or misinformation, in relation to the aforementioned.
The trailer is contentious, and perhaps, too prompt with its claims. Nevertheless, should anyone desire to dig-deep and go down the rabbit hole, they can simply purchase Randall Sullivan’s book and sink their teeth into the depths of investigations. Perhaps, it’s beneficial for individuals interested and/or involved with this film, to accept the policy of truth; that sometimes it’s better to turn the other cheek, and channel attentions toward contributing to society and not making bold attempts to dismantle great organizations, regardless of any veracities or equivocations one may or may not be aware of. Moreover, as far as acting is concerned, it would have been pleasing to see Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker sharing screen-time again, like they did in Nick of Time (1995) – a hidden gem directed by John Badham (Blue Thunder, Stakeout), about a man framed into a situation to assassinate a politician in order to save the life of his abducted young daughter.
City of Lies is unavailable for streaming On Demand and unavailable on Blu-ray.