DEEP COVER takes us over a lot of familiar territory, with a plot that reads like a compendium of recent crime movies. There's an undercover narcotics cop who begins to lose sight of which side he's on (RUSH); a plentiful helping of drugs and violence (NEW JACK CITY); a smuggling ring protected by diplomatic immunity (LETHAL WEAPON 2); and a corrupt political system which greases the wheels of organized crime at the expense of the officer on the street (Q & A). The pleasant surprise is that DEEP COVER puts a fresh, original spin on its second-hand subject matter. Screenwriters Michael Tolkin (THE PLAYER) and Henry Bean (INTERNAL AFFAIRS) have injected intelligence and wit into the story, fleshing out the moral dilemna of a man who is forced to kill and deal drugs in the name of justice. ("Am I a cop pretending to be a drug dealer, or a drug dealer pretending to be a cop?") Veteran black director Bill Duke (A RAGE IN HARLEM) has achieved a visual style that is both edgy and lyrical, a fiercely contemporary blend that mirrors the contradictions of his hero's world. Duke has also drawn outstanding performances from Larry Fishburne, as undercover policeman John Q. Hull; and the incomparable Jeff Goldblum who, as Hull's lawyer partner, develops from an amoral wimp into a greedy, reptilian killer. DEEP COVER has a shaky beginning and a hokey ending but, somewhere in between, it becomes a movie of considerable power--largely thanks to the contrasting styles of its two stars. Fishburne radiates sullen intensity, while Golblum is the essence of superficiality, a man with a witty riposte for almost any occasion. The chemistry between the two creates some of the film's best moments, when tragedy--or, at least, violence--is juxtaposed with high humor in a style reminiscent of GOODFELLAS. It's an unsettling yet compelling blend, and probably one you don't want to think about too much.