Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Popcorn Love: Jeff Goldblum in Deep Cover (1992)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 24, 2007


Deep Cover is a fairly underappreciated movie in general. I don’t know if I’d say underrated, necessarily, ‘coz it’s a pretty ridiculous movie on the whole, but no more so than New Jack City, of which this movie is more or less the West Coast equivalent. It’s got Lawrence Fishburne, fresh from Boyz n the Hood, as the undercover cop coming dangerously close to flipping sides, Charles Martin Smith as his asshole superior, and classic That Guy Clarence Williams III as a religious cop trying to redeem Fishburne’s soul, as well as all-time classic That Guy Bill Duke in one of his first times behind the camera. And lest we forget, it also features the titular Dr. Dre & Snoop Doggy Dogg theme, the first solo cut by either and one of the great rap songs of the 90s.

But the best reason to love Deep Cover is still definitely Jeff Goldblum. The man’s great in just about everything he’s ever been in, ranging all the way back to his immortal one-line performance in Annie Hall (“I forgot my mantra”). Nine times out of ten, however, his manic mumblings and off-kilter facial expressions get translated by directors as mere nerdiness (resulting in his career-defining roles in The Big Chill, Independence Day and Jurassic Park, among dozens of others) rather than outright psychosis.

It’s in the latter mindset where Goldblum really shines. The Fly is the most obvious example, as you gradually watch this geeky Jewish guy turn into a genuinely terrifying monster, but his performance as gangster David Jason in Deep Cover is just as emblematic. He starts out the film mild-mannered enough, just a shady lawyer with some other biz on the side, but after getting pushed too far by crime boss Felix Barbosa, he makes the transition into Scarface territory in fairly impressive timing.

Basically, I love Goldblum in Deep Cover because there’s a real lacking of Jewish gangsters in the movie world. I think Robert DeNiro and James Woods might technically have been Jewish in Once Upon a Time in America, and no one who’s ever seen it will be able to forget Sean Penn’s wildly ridiculous (and jewfro’d) turn as Jewish lawyer Alan Kleinfeld in Carlito’s Way, but these guys weren’t believably Jewish in any way (and Hesh on The Sopranos barely even counts as a gangster, more just the show’s resident Wise Old Jewish Guy). Goldblum is the real deal, however, and though it’s probably a bit disturbing for me to think so, it’s good to see an actual Jew repping in the cinema mob world.

And Goldblum is a great candidate for the actor to do so, because even though he’s a believable nutso killer cokehead in Deep Cover, there’s still that nebbishy Woody Allen quality evidently at work in the character. It shows through in his insecurity around Lawrence Fishburne’s character, how he keeps trying to impress him with his clothes and his sexual escapades, desperate for his partner’s approval, as well as in his general timidness when it comes to doing the dirty work, generally willing to let Fishburne take the lead and just chime in when necessary.

David Jason might not have been quite slick enough to reach Nino Brown status in pop culture history, and that’s probably because Jeff Goldblum at his most badass is still Jeff Goldblum. Still, you gotta love it when one Jewish ganster sarcastically promises “Yeah, we’ll have shrimp” to another just before kicking him out of his (moving) car. Too cool for Kashrut.

2 Responses to “Popcorn Love: Jeff Goldblum in Deep Cover (1992)”

  1. Anton said

    Never seen this movie, but as is the status quo after having read your damn blog, now I really want to.

    My contribution: Robert DeNiro in Casino was Jewish. It wasn’t a particularly big part of the movie, but it was supposed to mean something about his status. Also, putting the word Jew before any other expletive noun somehow makes it endlessly funnier, especially when it’s Joe Pesci yelling.

  2. the godfather game online

    Popcorn Love: Jeff Goldblum in Deep Cover (1992) « Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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