The fact that Deep Cover cribs from noir is no accident. While the noir genre portrayed the pessimism of the postwar era as a whole, Duke zeros his focus and frames his neo-noir film on the growing weariness that poor communities of color would face in the midst of the Reagan Administration’s War on Drugs. He uses the hardboiled narration and unflinching violent crime of the genre to create a fatalist film about the path America is heading down and how the misery of people of color is just another tool to maintain wealth and power. Deep Cover shows the capability of neo-noir to be a vehicle for something with gigantic political aspirations. It increases the scope of political issues in film originated by works like The Parallax View (dir. Alan J. Pakula, 1974) while also giving a platform for other films like Devil in a Blue Dress (dir. Carl Franklin, 1995) to wade into the waters of the noir as it relates to the black experience. However, Deep Cover ends up being a film with roots of American cinema’s past that uses its darkness to paint a bleak picture of its present and future unlike anything before or since.
Deep Cover is currently streaming on Cinemax’s streaming platform, MAX GO.