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This is one great movie, but the thing that really made it special was
Wesley Snipes portrayal of a totally despicable character in Nino Brown.
didn't portray Nino as the stereotypical drug dealer. Instead he
Nino as a highly intelligent man who you wonder what would have happened
he had put his intelligence to more productive pursuits. Also, Ice-T
bad in his first major role and you can see how much he has improved by
watching Law and Order: SVU.
This is not your typical movie about the drug culture.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Through it borrows heavily from such gangster movies as "Scarface." New Jack City is a good film that teaches (without preaching) the dangers of drug use and those individuals who would use it for their own gain. The film centers around Nino Brown a drug lord who rises to power with his gang by capitalizing on the drug of choice (at the time) crack cocaine. He soon builds a huge empire known as the CMB. A police officer (Mario Van Peoples) is assigned to bring him down to do this he forms a special unit comprised of Scotty Appleton (Ice-T) and Nick Peretti (Judd Nelson). The unit is able to bring down the CMB which was crumbling thanks to the power mad Brown, through Nino isn't punished by the law, he does meet his end.
The film is a fast pace (moving from 1986 to 89' in only the first thirty minutes). Through their are some obvious stereotypes (most notably the Italian gangsters Nino crosses). It's a good film. That has a good rhythm to it, and is probably one of the best to come out of the urban gangster genre of early 90's.
Van Peebles directs a great cast in this detached-from-reality film
about a truly evil drug-lord with a head for business and murder
(Snipes), and a tough, street-wise pair of cops (Ice-T and Judd Nelson)
hell-bent on bringing him down. The message is an important one -
slogans are not going to win the war on drugs, and the way the message
is carried in the film is more subtle than you might expect. The end of
the film makes the point very clear, and I won't discuss it because I
do not write spoilers. Like many of the more intelligent films made in
the early 1990s, New Jack City is also an indictment of the euphoria of
the Reagan years - telling the true story of what that time was like
for those living from paycheck to paycheck, or trying to live without
one, and dealing with the invisible "war on drugs" which had little to
no effect on anybody in our inner-city neighborhoods.
Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne and Chris Rock give stand-out performances, and the rest of the cast provide excellent support. The film also stars New York City, and definitely has an NYC flavor (seasoned with more than a pinch of Hollywood). The cinematography is a little breathless - not unusual for the genre but in this case a bit extreme. The script is good, but perhaps too dense with rich plot details. And the editing provides a few pacing problems toward the middle of the film which, combined with the over-abundance of subplots, detract from the development of the main themes. The soundtrack is excellent - including a nice mix of hip-hop, rap, contemporary soul, and dance music - all blended nicely with the imagery of the film. Van Peebles style is well developed in this film, but I felt that some aspects of the plot were a little too outrageous for the seriousness of the film's message, and I fear that the message may have been lost on many of the film's viewers.
Overall, this is a good film. Entertaining and thoughtful, but definitely not for everybody.
As British TV is so bad at the moment I'm re-watching many of my DVDs. I dug this out. Wesley Snipes is a very underrated actor just like his peer Laurence Fishburne. He is excellent in this, and as another user has commented, you see especially in the trial scene that his character isn't quite the dumb-head he appears to be just misguided. It has a fine cast. I dug the film out to watch Judd Nelson's performance again in it as I've just re-watched the Breakfast Club and wanted to compare. I can't remember who directed NJC but it's very reminiscent of a Spike Lee film and just as hard hitting. It is just as relevant today as it was back in 1991 in fact more relevant here in Manchester, United Kingdom as we have seen over the past 7 years some serious divisions within the black community.
This is a very stylish movie. All the elements seem to have combined to give it a very distinctive look and feel. The soundtrack is excellent and complements the story perfectly, almost like it is a part of the story. All the performances are great but special mention has to go to Wesley Snipes and the great Judd Nelson/Ice T double act. Okay the plot doesn't really tax your brain but if you are a fan of gangster movies or want a bit of mindless entertainment then you won't go wrong with this film.
New Jack City is directed by Mario Van Peebles (who also co-stars) and
written by Thomas Lee Wright and Barry Michael Cooper. It stars Wesley
Snipes, Ice-T, Judd Nelson, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Bill Nunn, Bill
Cobbs and Michael Michele. Music is by Vassal Benford and Michael
Colombier and cinematography by Francis Kenny.
New York City, 1986 and crack cocaine is the drug of choice and Nino Brown (Snipes) and his gang, the Cash Money Brothers, are building a violent empire and cornering the market. Enter streetwise cop Scotty Appleton (Ice-T) and loose cannon Nick Peretti (Nelson), who form an uneasy partnership willing to push the law's boundaries to bring Nino down
The Black Scarface!
On narrative terms it's basically an urban modernisation of the Scarface story, the themes at work were nothing new back then, never mind in cinema post 1991. That it is predominantly an African American film caused many at the time to call it a Blaxploitation picture for the 90s set, which is unfair, because it has more on offer than that and doesn't shy away from the dramatics available with such a story. True, it isn't pulling up any trees or breaking new ground in the drug/crime order of cinema, but it's incendiary enough to be thrilling whilst never romanticising the lifestyle of the drug gang. It paints a stark world of a drug infested city populated by colourful gang members, hapless addicts and edgy coppers, all sound tracked by pulse pounding hip-hop beats.
This was Van Peebles' first big screen directing outing and it's a hugely impressive debut. So much so it begs the question on why his subsequent directing career has been something of a none event? Here he delves deep into the realm of neo-noir to provide the picture with many visual smarts and techniques. Backgrounds are often showing oblique angles, colour schemes such as garish greens feature in striking compositions, a flashing red light is used adroitly on a character's face as he struggles to hold his rage, a POV shot of a basketball and the opening of the film with a slow zoom in on a crime about to be committed on a bridge, these are just some of the flair tricks showcased by Peebles.
While some of the key characters that form Nino's gang are under developed, Peebles does garner a great performance out of Snipes and very good turns from Ice-T and Nelson. Snipes provides Brown with a sinister swagger, yet a charm exudes from him that makes it believable that people would be willing to be led by him. Ice and Nelson are a cool double act, both Scotty and Nick pulse with machismo but are equally flawed as characters. The other important character and performance is Pookie played by Rock, a reformed crack addict now helping the police. Peebles is unsubtle in his handling of the Pookie situation, but it strikes the requisite emotional chord and puts further dramatic worth into an already tense filled thriller.
It's not as revolutionary as was once heralded, there is some formula familiarity and the finale is telegraphed too easily, but this has energy and style to burn. Making it one of the leading lights of the drug crime sub-genre of neo-noir. It's a damn shame Peebles was never this good again. 8/10
New Jack City is a pretty standard affair which tackles the drug
problem which plagues America's streets, more so during the time that
this film is set, that being the late 1980's. It delivers it in such a
way that you just know there are some flaws abound yet pin pointing
them is a pretty hard thing to do, this is probably why the film seems
to have such a love/hate relationship with most people, hence the films
mediocre rating of about 'average'.
One thing is for sure, and this glares throughout, is the sloppy editing this film has. It's quick, disorientating, dodgy montage editing technique which crops up now and again is a throw back to what poor edit jobs on television programmes were like and now and again, the camera seems to cut away a little too quickly when someone is giving a line of dialogue; this was very frustrating as just a little bit of lingering camera now and again would have made the film a little more atmospheric. At times, it felt a little like a music video given the chorus of song that sometimes some characters burst into. This was another little annoying flaw which cropped up two or three times. This is a shame as the film had rolled along fairly nicely.
Another thing was the characters themselves. Everyone just seemed to be a little too 'whiney'. They were all too scared to stand up to everybody else, and this included Snipes' character (The so-called black Tony Montana) who really only agreed and went with the flow throughout. Nobody really seemed to actually take charge of the whole set up and authority was only really drilled home after exactly an hour on the clock when, during a scene involving everyone involved, Nino Brown (Snipes) pierces someone's hand with some sort of hidden ice pick he has built into his cane. This was a shame as a shocking; violent scene like this earlier on in the film would have worked wonders and would have punched home any doubts we might have over Brown not being the man to lead this operation we've been introduced to.
I didn't like the construction of some of the scenes, either. This fault is twinned with the bad editing (already mentioned) and one in particular is with the relative ease in which Brown's gang manages to take over a multi storey building. This was early on in the film and this was another chance to stamp some ruthlessness and authority into the film, particularly once again with the character of Nino Brown. The odd execution or anything else the writers could have come up with that Brown maybe would have done would have been most welcome, however instead of good crime film conventions we get sloppy editing with the siege over in a flash as well as a bad hierarchy montage. It's also about as bloodthirsty as an episode of 'Barney the Dinosaur'. This is also a shame as this was a good chance for an action scene of some sort, following on from the good chase scene at the very start of the film.
One other thing was the rather forceful and abrupt message at the end which wasn't too well timed given we're not NEARLY given enough time to catch our breath from the films climax. A pause, some better music and then the title would have done. What's the rush?
Apart from these things, the acting from the police characters; including the internal feud between two of them and the whole involvement of a rehabilitated character joining in was good and was used well to create some suspense in the film, most notably the drug factory scene, even if his behaviour WAS a little unprofessional. I can see why this spring boarded Snipes' career as there are some things going for it but I couldn't give it a second watch so soon after the first and not everyone will like this film but if you go into it knowing of these few flaws I've talked about, it could be a very entertaining crime drama.
20 years after his father, Melvin Van Peebles, had made a revolutionary film called Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song, Mario Van Peebles would direct something of a classic himself with New Jack City. He plays the superior officer of a detective played by rapper Ice-T who we find out has personal reasons for wanting the drug dealer Nino Brown, played by Wesley Snipes, dead. Assisting him is partner Judd Nelson and a former user played by Chris Rock before he joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live". While Rock is better known as a comedian, he gives a fine dramatic performance here. Of course, it's Snipes who gets the lion's share of the acting highlights especially when his character's on trial. While it seems initially the drug lifestyle is glamorous here, it does show eventually that crime doesn't pay. So on that note, New Jack City gets a high recommendation from me. P.S. While I managed to watch this on YouTube, some parts were missing so I checked the Italian upload on the site to watch what I missed and I managed to understand what was going on despite the Italian dubbing.
New Jack City is from is probably an example of an early 90's
blaxpilotian flick which is straight up with other greats like
Boyz'n'Hood. However this focus's on more of the 1980's era when the
crack cocaine problem broke out onto the streets on New York City. The
movie is brilliant because unlike most gangster or mafia flicks which
almost portrait a hedonistic view , New Jack City is very urban and
down to earth . The film waste no time breaking into action with no OTT
clichés which we have all gotten used to seeing. The script was great
with a lot sharp twists and turns. Ice T performance was certainly note
worthy and it is easy to see how he would go onto play Law and Order ,
although I felt there were some stereotypical 'black cop' moments in
his performance which I am afraid I just did not by and his partner did
not really do much apart pass sarcasm and comes up with probably one
good idea in the movie. Having said that the star of the show was truly
Wesley Snipes because truly without him this movie would have been
nothing , although I am aware that he models him-self after Tony
Montana in certain aspects he was actually basing his performance on a
real life gangster , and it was a pleasure to see him on screen because
he was not portraying a typical hood rat! Instead we have got a person
who almost reminds one of Al Capone with his untouchable attitude but
at the same time is very intelligent! One might even be charmed or
might find him-self agreeing with the stuff he comes out with but
Snipes does a masterful job of showing us how evil this man really is
although with Robin Hood and his Merry men crew also it note checking
out Chris Rocks performance although he was added for humour he did not
shy away from the dangers of crack. The film only faulted with a few
minor things like the ending which probably everyone saw coming however
have said that , New Jack City was from time when I was growing up
where the word 'cool' was at an all time high with wacky track-suits
and hair cuts but the rap music still has not lost its shine along with
a very sharp anti-drugs message. I would recommend this one to fans of
blaxpoltation,Law and Order and also gangster flicks or just for Snipes
performance alone as you will watch one man who exploits the misery of
others as a business opportunity all in the name of the American Way!
NEW JACK CITY : 8.6 OUT OF 10
'You gotta rob to be rich in the Reagan Era!' - Nino Brown (played by Wesley Snipes)
This movie was a surprise. I remember Mario van Peeble's father's "Watermelon Man", an amusing comedy that turns anti-white about half-way through and winds up rather a racist tract. It's almost a convention in movies about African-Americans who seem destructive to themselves or others that they are turned on to dope by white guys. Or, if they retain their rectitude, it's the white guys that are at the head of the horde of local pushers. Of course white women flock to the heroes, etc. We've seen it hundreds of times. But this one is different. The majority of performers are African-Americans, both the cops and the bad guys, neither of them perfect in their goodness or their evil. The characters seem to choose their own destinies for a change. Wesley Snipes is not given a loving trophy blonde. There is a token white cop, Judd Nelson, who was my supporting player in "From the Hip," an extraordinarily good film itself, who is permitted to say, "It's not a black thing. It's not a white thing." Crack is the problem here, not race. We're all in this together, which, in these days, is a pretty progressive statement. It's strictly a genre film. There is craftsmanship in it, if no noticeable attempt at depth, but it's well and stylishly done too. Van Peebles knows how to place the camera and when to cut. The performances are excellent for a film of this type. Snipes especially is a fine physical actor. It winds up with the expected shootout in an empty warehouse or factory. I'd kind of put off seeing this on TV, afraid of wincing through the prejudices I anticipated being expressed, and I was pleasantly surprised to find them completely absent here.
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