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Buena Vista Home Video presents
In Too Deep (1999)

"Put me back in Preston, I'm the only one who can get close."
- Jeff Cole (Omar Epps)

Review By: Troy Lambert   
Published: July 28, 2000

Stars: Omar Epps, L. L. Cool J.
Other Stars: Nia Long, Pam Grier, Stanly Tucci
Director: Michael Rymer

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, sexual content and depictions of drug usage
Run Time: 01h:37m:00s
Release Date: July 11, 2000
UPC: 717951004741
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+A-C+ D-

DVD Review

"Bias - An inclination or preference, esp. one that interferes with impartial judgement", according to Webster's II New College Dictionary. Going into this review, I had thought that I would be biased because of a couple of factors (I'll touch on those later), but I became focused and put aside my bias' to give an honest, open, unadulterated review of this film.

This movie is based on a true story of a rookie police officer who is sent in undercover to catch one of the largest drug lords that's plaguing the mid-western city of Cincinnati, Ohio. Omar Epps plays Jeff Cole (aka J. Reid), the street smart, driven young cop who has been yearning for a chance to get back at those (drug dealers) who caused chaos and death in his 'hood' growing up. It's all lain out in a later scene with Nia Long's character, Epps character goes into a flashback type of description of how he used to walk past a grafittied wall that portrayed those 'victims' of the drug crime in his neighborhood and how he realized that he'd memorized all the names without trying, the youngest being a three year old little boy. This forms the background for his insistent determination for catching 'God'. Epps portrayal of Officer Cole/J. Reid was exceptional, this has to be one of his best roles to date. I couln't help but to think that Epps has had some type of similiar life experience that he could relate to and portray through this character, because he did it so compellingly. I'll definitely be on the look out for more of his upcoming roles, I think he has to be one of the best young black actors up and coming.

'God' (aka Dwayne Gittens), is played by L. L. Cool J., rapper turned actor. Although most of L. L.'s earlier work (Krush Groove, Caught Up and Woo to name a few) lacked good direction for him, this role he was meant to play. He delivers a very convincing performance of this no-holds-barred drug lord. I was very surprised that this was L. L. I was watching. I walked away very content with his performance and I don't think he can get enough praise for it.

Nia Long's role was rather minor and she should have been written into her character a little more. You don't really get a feel for the direction the writing team of Michael Henry Brown (of Dead President's fame) and Paul Aaron where going with her. There was nothing really holding her to Epps because the relationship wasn't really a focal point at any time. The interaction she had with Epps was good for what it was worth, but it was so short that it teased you and left you wanting more. Nia Long has so much potential to deliver but I guess this wasn't her chance.

There are a couple of plot holes that I couldn't get around (without spoilers, but how did J. Reid come into contact with God's right hand man?) and some of the timing of events wasn't very planned out, but I was very impressed with the overall production and actors performances in this movie. The atmosphere, conflict and action all came together for me and created a very enjoyable experience from some very capable actors and actresses. I'd recommend this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I was very pleased with the image transfer on In Too Deep. I'd have to say that Buena Vista (Disney) hasn't been one of my favorite studios to put out DVD. Most of their transfers are decent to good, but they put out a lot of 4:3 material and they aren't big supporters of anamorphic transfers. For those who aren't in-the-know, an anamorphic transfer offers increased resolution and typically a better picture specifically for those who own 16:9 (widescreen) monitors. The DVD gets the full anamorphic treatment in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (widescreen). This adds the needed clarity, color detail and black levels that the original film portrayed at the theaters. This is a dark print, with a lot of the action taking place in dimly lit corridors, clubs and the streets at night. The black levels on this DVD are excellent, I never see any 'grays' on the darkest of scenes and with the black cast, the darker fleshtones are represented accurately. The print is very clean, no evidence of dirt or speckles in the film.

There appeared to be some slight edge enhancements done on some of the daytime scenes (see the scenes where Jeff meets Preston in the daytime at their meeting spot), other than that I didn't see any other signs of compression artifacts or pixelization problems. Not a reference quality DVD, but a very good transfer and image none the less.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: When I first started watching this DVD, I thought my receiver was in Dolby Pro-Logic mode because the dialog didn't have the clarity and impact that I had remembered from my theatrical viewing. I checked my settings and my receiver was in Dolby Digital mode. That is a definite negative mark from the start (see the opening scenes where the four are in the Jeep prior to J. Reid having to prove himself). The dialog faded in and out from the center channel speaker and what was audible didn't have any impact and seemed directionless.

The audio picks up from there and improves throughout the rest of the movie. Being a cops and robbers type of movie, I also would have expected more activity from the surround channels. Bass on the other hand is not a problem. The .1 track on this DVD is the bomb. You should never have a want for bass while watching this movie, from the opening track (Mobb Deep - Quiet Storm), to the humping song Keys To The Range (Jagged Edge) in the club scene, the bass just bumps.

Overall the 5.1 mix is not that greatest, a better audio transfer would have been a very appreciated plus. I doubt that this DVD will be revisited anytime in the near future for a Special Edition with remixed audio (or DTS), too bad.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Jagged Edge music video (Keys To The Range)
  2. Theatrical trailer
Extras Review: As is the case on most titles released from the vaults of parent company Disney (which includes Dimension and Miramax) this DVD falls way short in the extras categories. I guess they felt that enough time and money had been expended in the anamorphic transfer so they didn't need to add anything else. I have yet to understand the decision-making team in the DVD department at Disney.

For what it's worth they have included the Jagged Edge music video Key's To The Range in all its Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The transfer is in 4:3 format and the quality isn't the greatest I've seen. Sound is lackluster and doesn't really do much for the video itself.

They have also included the original theatrical trailer, basic actor/actress bios and filmographies, nothing exciting.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

As mentioned before there were some initial biases when I went to review this DVD, the first being that I'm actually from Cincinnati. It is somewhat of a monumental event when we get a movie that's not only based on a story from Cincinnati, but where some of the actual filming takes place as well. I was actually at two or three of the on location shoots, awe-inspired by the movie and production work. The last movie I remember being filmed here was Eddie Murphy's Harlem Nights.

The second bias is that I'm a big fan of Omar Epps and Nia Long, although both have had some earlier movies that didn't do well, both are very good performers and are definitely on my "stars to watch out for" list. I just knew from the beginning that I was going to like this movie and it turned out that my notion was correct, I love it!

For anyone interested in seeing a decent movie with great promise, I'd recommend this one at least once.


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