The new cops-and-crack thriller In Too Deep is a heavily cut bag of passing gangsta highs, empty at the core but superficially diverting. Ripping off the now venerably old-school New Jack City, Deep recasts the familiar undercover cop’s dilemma of overassociation as a Method-acting misfire. Jeff (Omar Epps, doing his best big-screen work since Juice) is the Cincinnati narc with a knack for worming his way into drug dealers’ confidence. Though hot on the trail of kingpin LL Cool J throughout, our hero does drift away from his superiors (including Stanley Tucci, playing his drug warrior like a worried, overmatched shrink), disobeying orders and carrying an increasingly violent undercover persona into his aboveground life. (Black-bohemian Nia Long offers the requisite romantic flipside to the mayfly-pretty crack-groupies Jeff starts squiring around.)
Director Michael Rymer keeps Deep moving at a respectable clip. Although the writing (from Michael Henry Brown and Paul Aaron) would be best described as semishallow, the film does have a canny appreciation for how ghetto realness is acted out, with cops and crooks following mental scripts that inevitably have serious holes in them. In Too Deep doesn’t do much with this insight, but as rides to nowhere go, this one isn’t half bad.