New Jack City (1991) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

New Jack City is now 25 years old. Since its debut it has become as infamous as Scarface to gangster movie aficionados. Lines of dialogue, character names, clothing, and soundtrack have all become part of pop culture and must account for the film’s ongoing appeal. At the center of the picture is a captivating and charismatic performance by (then rising star) Wesley Snipes.

Nino Brown is a low-level hood from the streets of New York City. He’s introduced to crack-cocaine by his right hand man G-Money (Allen Payne) and quickly sees the demand from junkies to high-powered corporate types. Nino has devised a plan to take over an apartment complex and centralize his operation out of the compound. The tenants are forced to either become consumers of Nino’s product or live-in hostages to the criminal element that has over-taken the structure.

NYPD officer Scotty Appleton (Ice-T) and Nick Peretti (Judd Nelson) are assigned to take down Nino and his crew dubbed the ‘Cash Money Brothers’. Using a recovering junkie (Chris Rock) as a way to infiltrate the operation, Nick thinks he’s found a way to bring down Nino’s entire enterprise. The informant is discovered and executed before the police can secure any evidence against Brown or his crew.

Meanwhile, an internal struggle within the gang has pitted Nino against his best friend G-Money. Drunk on power and his own arrogance Nino becomes suspicious of everybody around him. G-Money, slipping into a crack addiction, allows himself to be fooled into bringing the cops down on the CMB.

New Jack City holds up surprising well considering its dated style. Mario Van Pebbles’ direction is crisp and pays homage to not only Depalma’s vision but that of Howard Hawks’ as well. Its box-office success opened the door for commercially viable and socially conscious films about America’s inner cities.

Director: Mario Van Peebles
Stars: Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Chris Rock

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