Two street detectives (Shakur and Belushi) earn a bent crust entrapping drug dealers, killing them off and then pinning their murders on gang-related activities. Unfortunately, one of their sleazy hits turns out to be an undercover cop and before you can say Internal Affairs, the pair are up to their eyeballs in fake alibis, unreliable witnesses and corrupt line-ups.
It may be a cruel twist of fate but Tupac Shakur's career has gone from strength to strength since he was shot dead in Las Vegas back in 1996. The rapper's back catalogue has gone multi-platinum, his previous movie Gridlock'd won him, and Tim Roth, rave reviews, and there are enough conspiracy theories surrounding his untimely death to guarantee immediate icon status. No surprise, then, that Tupac's final performance, recorded in this absorbing but occasionally uneven cop thriller, casts a dark and prophetic pall over the entire movie. In addition to the leads, as the evidence mounts up, so too does the stellar supporting cast - including Dennis Quaid as a wino tagged for the killing and James Earl Jones as a hotshot defence lawyer.
Gang Related is a formidable and compelling drama with a very dark heart. Both Shakur and Belushi - the latter as good as he was in Oliver Stone's Salvador - play a contrasting pair of totally mean-spirited cops with little chance of salvation. Belushi does the body histrionics, Shakur the facial emotions.
Writer/director Jim Kouf certainly knows his police procedures, packing the movie with sharp dialogue and authentic set pieces. Unfortunately, the final half-hour, with its told-you-so conclusion, takes the knife-edge away from what clearly could have been a masterly thriller. Then again, just watching Tupac ponder death on the big screen is probably all the knife-edge you need.