September 06, 1999 12:00 PM

Omar Epps, LL Cool J, Nia Long

Like its protagonist, In Too Deep wants to have it both ways. The tale of an undercover cop (Epps) in Cincinnati who finds himself drawn to the thug life, the movie lectures about the evils of drugs and violence while going out of its way to showcase blood-spattered scenes that chronicle everything from sexual assault with a pool cue to the involuntary removal of one character’s tongue. It’s all as ugly as it sounds.

These scenes are included, presumably, so that there will be no misunderstanding about the villainous nature of the perpetrator of most of these crimes, a powerful drug dealer who calls himself God (Cool J). He may use the deity’s tag, but his obvious role model is the Godfather, as he dispenses favors and turkey dinners to the neighborhood while finding time to stand proudly in church during his son’s baptism. In his best movie role to date, rapper Cool J portrays a character who is equal parts savvy and menace. Despite Cool J’s violent side, it’s easy to understand why Epps finds himself conflicted about where his loyalties lie. How it all plays out, however, is nothing but tales of the expected. (R)

Bottom Line: Violent, yes, deep, no

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