White Chicks (2004) is a slapstick comedic film starring Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans.
Here’s the premise: Two disgraced FBI agents go way undercover in an effort to protect hotel heiresses the Wilson sisters from a kidnapping plot.
Before I continue, I must remind you that my goal for these TV and movie reviews is to critique how the plot and characters portray the FBI and its policies and procedures, not to comment on the show’s entertainment value. However, this film did not age well. In this era of cancel culture, if released today, there’s a good chance the entire cast and crew of White Chicks would be shunned from “proper” society. I, therefore, apologize for having laughed at some really inappropriate and offensive jokes.
But guess what? I actually discovered several teachable moments while watching White Chicks. Who knew?
In the movie, their supervisor disciplines the two main FBI agent characters for going rogue during an unauthorized undercover operation. So what to they do to rehabilitate their poor work image? They go rogue again. In real life, this would never happen.
There’s a tremendous amount of oversight and preparation prior to the initiation of any undercover operation (UCO).
Using a UCA is considered only after other covert investigative methods and tools—such as the use of informants, consensual monitoring, and electronic surveillance—have been explored and exhausted. Before an undercover agent can be introduced into an investigation, authorization from FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ) must be obtained.
The case agent prepares a Group I or II undercover proposal that is first submitted for the preliminary approval of the Special Agent in Charge of the division, with the concurrence of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The undercover proposals outline the predication that initiated the opening of the case and the anticipated outcome of the proposed undercover scenario. Once the undercover committee in the field approves, then it’s sent up the chain for FBIH authorization.
There’s another off-policy scene in the movie, a chase scene where the purse of one of the UCA’s is stolen with his badge and gun inside.
A UCA would never carry their true identification on their person or anywhere someone could discover it.
The FBI crafts a new identity for each UCA through an operations program called Stagehand, which issues new documents, including alias driver’s license, passport, credit cards, fake employment and backstories. (If I shared more details about this sensitive program, I would have to . . .)
One last thing. In the movie, the agents are first assigned to a drug trafficking investigation and then to a kidnapping case.
FBI agents are usually assigned to squads based on related federal violations.
On TV and in movies, an agent is often portrayed as investigating every violation under the Bureau’s jurisdiction, with no distinction regarding what squad they’re on. It seldom happens that way.
White Chicks is currently streaming on HBO Max and available to rent on most platforms. Watch the official trailer here.
To learn more about how the FBI operates undercover cases, see Chapter 7 – Undercover Agents Run Their Cases in my book – FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives.