A murder mystery with an explosive twist, Cover resembles a classic noir – it begins with a shooting and an arrest, and what follows is a narration of events with a series of haunting flashbacks.

Veteran actress Aunjanue Ellis (Undercover Brother) is Valerie Maas, a doting mother and loving wife who relocates with her husband Dutch (Raz Adoti) to Philadelphia when he’s offered a prospective position as a psychiatrist at a local hospital. With a sprawling house and six-figure income, they become part of Philly’s elite, and Valerie’s soon living the American dream. When her best friend Zahara (Vivica A. Fox) produces comprising photographs of Dutch entwined in the arms of another woman, though, the marriage heads in a downward spiral, leading to a shattering discovery that threatens to rip the pair apart.

Cover doesn’t reek of perfection, but the plot is a labyrinth of successive revelations and unexpected turns of events that play into a decent story. Lou Gossett Jr. plays the detective intent on obtaining a murder confession whilst Leon, Roger Guenveur Smith and Paula Jai Parker play Dutch’s old chums.

For director Bill Duke, the puzzle at the heart of the film not only provides an opportunity to examine the myriad issues that surround marriage and infidelity, but to also drum home the issue of personal responsibility.

The mood, style and tone of the film may be superb, but Cover is bogged down by pacing and editing problems, and isn’t quite the taut and intense ‘edge of your seat’ thriller it sets out or has the potential to be.

Still, it’s a thriller with a social conscience that packs a considerable wallop largely due to its explosive content.

Grade: C+

Cover releases in select theaters Feb. 22.