New Jack City

This is a movie from the early 90s but still has plenty of meaning today. With Hollywood's new string of drug-related movies and the Bush administration reviving the family's war against drugs, I thought that New Jack City was worth another viewing (OK, Jericho just happened to be playing it when I was over at his place.) Anyway, "New Jack City" is a look at the drug trade and drug war from the inner-city front.

"New Jack City" is set in Harlem where local drug dealer, Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) is making a dazzling rise as the neighborhood dealer of a new drug, called crack. He violently takes over a local apartment building and turns it into a drug factory, war bastion, and junkie's paradise. He does $1 million a week in business and seems untouchable, and the frustrated police experience the Teflon effect with Nino.

Police Captain Stone (Mario Van Peebles, who also directed the film), recruits two damaged cops, Scotty Appleton (Ice-T) and Nick Peretti (Judd Nelson) to lead a sting operation to bring Nino down. During this undertaking Scotty takes a crack-head Pooky (Chris Rock) under his wing and involves him in the outfit.

This movie is like a combination of "The Godfather", "The Untouchables", and "Scarface", which is playing in the background of one of the scenes. There are lots of gun-toting goons, conflict with rival Italian gangsters, drive-by shootings, and cops-and-criminals action in keeping with the genre. Yes, the plot is a bit cliché but the actors deliver superlatively on their roles. Of particular note is Snipes' role as Brown, in what I believe to be one of his best roles to date. He is chilly, brutal, and ruthless, and can be best described in by the lyrics of the rap "New Jack Hustler", by Ice-T which is part of the soundtrack. His character is like a Black Don Corleone, and performs a scene reminiscent of Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas" and Al Pachino in "Scarface". Ice-T and Judd Nelson complement each other wonderfully in an antagonistic way. Chris Rock gives a great performance in a non-comedic role as a pathetic crack addict. The supporting cast, among them, Van Peebles, Allan Payne, and Russell Wong ("Takedown") do a terrific job.

This isn't a movie to make you feel sorry for the urban drug crisis or fuel the myth that crack was introduced to blacks by the CIA as a means of genocide, but just shows how the drug problem hurts the inner city. Just like in "Blow" and "Traffic", the embattled drug lord defends his trade and makes an argument for legalization and decriminalization of drugs.

Despite it's age, "New Jack City" is still a movie to see and enjoy.

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: B

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:

A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV

New Jack Czarina

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