New Jack City (1991) Poster

(1991)

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8/10
Idolator! Your soul is required in hell!
Spikeopath13 March 2013
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
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7/10
Fast paced ghetto gangsta fantasy with an important message
mstomaso31 July 2005
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.
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A good film.
brandonkosto27 January 2001
Warning: 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.
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Wesley Snipes Should Have Been Nominated
Brian Washington12 February 2003
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. He didn't portray Nino as the stereotypical drug dealer. Instead he portrayed Nino as a highly intelligent man who you wonder what would have happened if he had put his intelligence to more productive pursuits. Also, Ice-T wasn'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.
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8/10
New Jack City
oakcourt23 August 2006
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.
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10/10
A must for all fans of Mafia-type movies.
fiona-213 January 2000
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.
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6/10
A flawed crime drama, but it has some things going for it.
johnnyboyz10 July 2006
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.
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7/10
Hasn't aged quite so gracefully, but then nothing this momentarily fly ever does.
oneguyrambling27 January 2012
When New Jack City was released I was fascinated by the characters and mesmerised by its power – I was also 17.

Now almost 20 years on I see some of the flaws and broad strokes used that detract a little from the effectiveness of the film, but it is still a pretty solid genre piece with a standout performance from Wesley Snipes in what turned out to be a career defining role.

A great opening sequence introduces us to Nino Brown on the job. It is 1986 and while Nino is already large he is not yet LAAAAAARRRRRGE! As he will be a little later on… Nino is the personification of hip-hop cool, he wears clothes that might be described as "fly", rocks several ostentatious gold chains and items of jewelry and almost always wears the obligatory early 90s Kangol hat. He also has a slick tongue and an ear for a quotable line.

Nino's is practically posse-less at this early stage but his right hand man Gee Money (Allen Payne) is already in place. On this day Gee Money brings something new to the conversation, a new drug named Crack that is apparently already creating a buzz in urban areas.

Nino devises a plan that sees the newly formed gang the CMB (Cash Money Brothers) take over an entire apartment building called the Carter in a low income area, using force where necessary. Once under their control they convert the whole building into a home base to run a high tech, organised drug selling premises, complete with employee uniforms and membership cards! The Carter rapidly becomes the hub of operations and a well known no-go zone in the local area… unless you're looking to score.

Fast forward three years to 1989 and crack rules, this time Nino is indeed LAAAAAARRRRRGE, and the CMB are runnin' thangs in a big way, but he has even greater aspirations.

Nino's escalation of operations sees himself get noticed by the Mafia who aren't too ecstatic with their decreasing market share, and the cops, who decide to take action… after only three years! A taskforce is built to take down the CMB – not much of a task force but a task force nonetheless. It is comprised of 4 guys and only three merit description aside from "the Asian guy who hardly talks". These three are leader Detective Stone (Mario Van Peebles), maverick black cop Scotty Appleton (Ice T) and maverick white cop Nick Peretti (Judd Nelson).

These three spend most of each day debating race and drugs, without ever seeming to think "Gee maybe if we take down the apartment building drug complex that might do some good".

As the cops escalate things by getting a reformed crack addict named Pookie (Chris Rock) to infiltrate the Carter and report back, tensions increase between power hungry Nino and former best bud Gee Money. It doesn't help things when a gold digging hoochie named Uniqua (I wish I made that up!) gets involved and strings both of them along by their zippers.

I'll leave the action there aside from mentioning that when an initial police operation fails things move quickly from there until the end, leading to some pretty ludicrous events.

New Jack City is quotable at times, but just as cringe worthy at others with some of the attempts at catchy lines falling very flat. The dialogue between cops is often most lamentable of all, which seems strange as Mevin Van Peebles plays lead detective Stone, and he directed the thing! In 1991 I had no idea just how broadly stereotyped the characters were, all Nino seems to do is play basketball and watch Scarface, and the less said about the Italian Mafia the better.

New Jack City hasn't dated like the flat top haircuts and formation dancing that both appear in the film, but certain scenes pop and Wesley Snipes puts in an over the top performance as the insanely confident and driven Nino Brown that serves as the centrepiece of the film.

Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. For a couple years I thought New Jack City was the best film ever… It isn't. But while it hasn't aged well it is still a solid pic with some memorable scenes and a great bad guy.
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8/10
Wesley Snipes gets the lion's share of acting honors for his role as Nino Brown in New Jack City
tavm23 February 2012
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.
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Am I My Brother's Keeper...
Robert J. Maxwell3 September 2002
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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8/10
Wesley Snipes - American Gangster
shadowman12315 January 2008
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)
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A black version of The Untouchables
davideo-222 February 2003
STAR RATING:*****Unmissable****Very Good***Okay**You Could Go Out For A Meal Instead*Avoid At All Costs

New Jack City is The Untouchables for the black community right down to the last tee.Wesley Snipes is playing Robert De Niro's part as Al Capone,while Mario Van Peebles is the Elliot Ness of the story,making for a black man's Kevin Costner (what a concept).As the director of the film as well,Peebles has also updated it to the more modern time of 1986.And the film he has crafted is an impressive tale of the futility of anti-drug initiatives in the US,gang violence,dealer rivalry and hypocrisy.

Peebles' direction is stylish,if a little uneven,and the film has a cool visual style to it,with catchy camera angles and a few enjoyable viserical shots,kind of ahead of it's time in the pre-Matrix days of 1991.This is matched by a cool,absorbing hip-hop/R'nB soundtrack that plays through a lot of the scenes in the film,adding a believable feel to the black crime scene that is being portrayed.There is,of course,a heavy amount of violence and bad language in the film,so any extreme prudes should probably steer clear,but this is ultimately necessary to convey the reality at the heart of the story,and not in any way immensely gratuitous.

On the performances front,Snipes is ideally cast as the cool-as-ice gangster crimelord,practically playing him in his sleep,while fine support comes from Peebles,Ice-T and Judd Nelson as the men in charge of bringing him down.A good few years before he started over-working his flamboyant funnyman act,another surprisingly great,and non-funny performance comes from Chris Rock as a young junkie desperate to kick the habit and help the cops stop Snipes and his drug dealing operations.

It's similarity to and feel of being a remake of The Untouchables for black people ultimately does underwhelm it somewhat,but it is still nevertheless a fairly brilliant film that is distinctly aimed at the problem it is targeting and is very distinctly 1991.****
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4/10
"It's never personal it's always business"
jimbo-53-18651125 November 2015
Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes)is a drug lord who takes over a city by using the Carter Building to produce and sell crack cocaine. Brown and his gang are making $1,000,000 a week and have almost total control of the city. In order to bring Nino down, streetwise cop Scotty (Ice-T) attempts to infiltrate Nino and his gang by sending in reformed crack addict Pookie (Chris Rock). When this attempt fails, Scotty finds he must go undercover himself in an attempt to bring Nino and his operation down.

Director Mario Van Peebles directs the film with some competency - it has a certain style about it and the look and the feel of the film certainly feel authentic. It's gritty, grimy and brutal which gives a semi satisfying feel to it. Sadly where New Jack City really falls apart is when you take away all the gloss and the polish and look at the bare bones of the product.

The film puts most of its focus on Nino Brown which is fine, but it doesn't afford him much development turning what should be a complex drug-lord into a rather simplistic character.I would have preferred it if Brown was fleshed out a bit and made a bit more interesting which at least would have made the story a bit more involving. Snipes throws himself into the role and his work here is admirable and he is fun to watch, but sometimes he overplays the role making him look like a caricature rather than an actual character or person we can connect with. Rock plays the role of an ex-crack addict in a mix of comedy and drama which doesn't entirely work, but Rock is OK here. Ice T is good here mixing sarcasm and tough-talking to good effect.

Aside from all of the above I also found the story a little weak and it perhaps wouldn't have hurt to explore the general drug-culture and to give Nino's big rivals a little more focus. This not only would have fleshed the story out more, but it probably would have made it a bit more involving. The pace is also a little lethargic and made long stretches of the film a bit boring.

In summary then the film is stylish, gritty and brutal, but the story is rather pedestrian lacking in both focus and depth. It gets its point across in the end (in a final scene that admittedly took me by surprise) and therefore gets an extra star for that alone. New Jack City certainly has its moments, but for me it was weak in far too many areas for it to even achieve a passable score.
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7/10
A Pretty Good Blaxploitation Movie
Uriah4316 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Nino Brown" (Wesley Snipes) is a vicious drug dealer in New York City who has just learned of a new method for making cocaine even more addictive. Realizing the money to be made on this new novelty called "crack" he immediately corners the market and profits handsomely from those he has made addicted. Naturally, where there are huge profits there are also competitors who want in on the action. Ditto the fact that the police also want to corral him. But while they have been unsuccessful so far a new person named "Detective Stone" (Mario Van Peebles) is now assigned the task and he hires the two most aggressive cops he can find named "Scotty Appleton" (Ice T) and "Nick Peretti" (Judd Nelson) in order to nail Neno once and for all. Anyway, rather than detail the entire story and risk spoiling the film for those who haven't seen it I will just say that this was a pretty good blaxploitation movie for the most part. I especially liked the performances of both Wesley Snipes and Chris Rock (as the drug addict "Pookie"). Along with that it certainly didn't hurt having two attractive actresses like Michael Michele (as "Selena") and Vanessa Williams ("Keisha") either. And while the movie was pretty graphic I thought the director (Mario Van Peebles) handled the subject matter quite competently. As such I rate it as above average.
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One of the best Gangster classics of All Time!
vaughn_cornell-128 January 2005
Hailed by movie critic, Roger Ebert, as one of the best gangster classics of all time alongside "The Godfather", and "Scarface", "New Jack City" is an instant and extraordinary classic. Though many movie critics in the past and now have failed to see the true art of this film, other movie critics have understood the film's powerful message about the crack epidemic that became rampant during the late 80's. In addition, this film not only struck a cord in Hollywood with it's shocking message, but helped to establish the careers of actors Ice-T and Wesley Snipes and definitely put successful black films on the map, which helped to usher in the new black film movement paving the way for other "hood" classics that would dominate the screen during the early 90's. Moreover, director, Mario Van Peebles, though never given any credit for his work, is an excellent filmmaker doing what he does best by displaying his excellent camera work while, at the same time, teaching the African-American youth the dangers of drugs and how it leads to a person's downfall. The message of this film was plain and simple: Crack can lead a person nowhere in life and can damage the lives of others. If we do not continue to fight the war on drugs, then drugs will continue to destroy our country. This message along with the film, itself, should deserve mention in any film that has a positive message, and "New Jack City" will always be an extraordinary gangster classic that will continue to teach people about the choices that we make and how it will determine whether or not we will reach our downfalls.
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Snipes Surprises...
Coxer994 March 1999
In one of the greatest patriarchal roles since Brando's in The Godfather, Wesley Snipes astounds and overwhelms as "the godfather" in this film, directed and co-starring Mario Van Peebles. Snipes, however is where the strength of the film lies. His drug lord has no remorse. No heart. No soul. All he has is his power and he wants more of it. The film has a quick pace. The cast is quite good, including Ice-T as a cop going on the inside to try and take down Snipes' drug lord. Judd Nelson is dark and sardonic as Ice-T's main opposition on the case.
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3/10
Man this is bad...
headly662 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I haven't seen this one for a long time and now I know why. It's amazing how some movies get better with age and some don't. I remember when this came out, it was supposed to be so tough and modern, now it just looks as empty as the 80's were. The worst part has to be the script, it's so bland and corny it sounds like it was written by high school kids. Even the tough guys sound like wimps, the mob head looks like a used car salesman, the cops are clowns and Snipes character is so over the top it's laughable. There's no way this plot would work in real life, taking over a building so big, they would be caught in five minutes. God I'm glad those clothes styles are gone.
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5/10
Average crime epic, worth a watch for its star performance
Mr-Fusion27 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"New Jack City" is one of those movies that's made by one really good performance. In this case, it's Wesley Snipes, who takes the role of vicious drug lord and makes it his own, commanding every minute of his screen time. Unfortunately, he can't be around all the time, and we're left with Ice-T, Mario Van Peebles and Judd Nelson, who vary from half-decent to awful. No one else comes close to the lead.

This probably had more cultural impact back in '91, but 25 years later, it's more bemusing than anything. It veers toward the cartoonish when it's eye is on Scarface levels of drama (even featuring the movie on TV to hammer home the point . . . twice). The sermonizing also doesn't work so well today, and the movie does plenty of that.

5/10
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7/10
It ain't the Cosby Show
policy1343 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw this movie, I didn't get it. Hey, I am not from the street, I have never done drugs and I usually stay clear from alcohol. What I did respond to was that you could make a movie, with almost no sympathetic characters, and still be mesmerised. This was something that you had never seen before. Even Goodfellas, one of my favorite movies, had a kind of sympathetic protagonist in Henry Hill. He may have been a gangster, but you could tell that he really wasn't as sociopathic as Nino Brown.

Even the cops aren't that great. The way they are portrayed was further explored in Tarantino's Resorvoir Dogs where the gangsters were also the protagonists. If you portrayed Ice-T as the straight-laced cop, the movie probably would have bombed badly. Ice-T by the way, does not really give an award-winning performance, but he brings a kind of authenticity that you need for a street movie like this. A total weird thing to me was Judd Nelson's part, who I was a big fan of. He is kind of just there, doesn't do anything, doesn't say that much. Very atypical from his earlier roles. This has got to be his greatest performance, even though I didn't see it that way at the time.

It's amazing the cast Mario Van Peebles got. Almost all of them were completely unknown at the time. I had seen Chris Rock on Beverly Hills Cop 2 in a bit part and Allen Payne on the Cosby Show, but had never heard of Vanessa Williams, Bill Nunn or for that matter Wesley Snipes. I later found out that he had been in quite a few movies before, also in one that I saw almost every day for like a month, Wildcats with Goldie Hawn.

What I remember most of this was the scene on the roof where Snipes confronts Allen Payne. What an amazing piece of acting. Can you believe that these guys used to do comedy, and not the gross-out kind. The tears down Snipes' cheek? Unbelievable.

The crack scenes are amazing. Not attractive in any way. The nude scenes, not a turn-on at all. Zombie crack addicts? Maybe a little overdone but still you get the message.

The closing monologue from Snipes is kind of reminiscent of the one from Goodfellas. It doesn't really justify the Nino Browns of the world, but you understand why he ended up the way he did. Both of the characters don't regret what they did, they are just sorry they were outsmarted, although Nino Brown is not really outsmarted at the end. The end scene was kind of a disappointment to me at the time, but in retrospect, how else could it have ended. There has to be a comeuppance of some kind. Remember, this is an anti-drug movie.

So congratulations Mr Van Peebles. You got people's attention and more.
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8/10
Great Gangster Film! That's Very Enjoyable And Often Powerful, With A Very Good Story And Outstanding Performances!
callanvass21 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great Gangster film! that's very enjoyable and often powerful with a very good story and outstanding performances!. All the characters are just great, and it's very well written and made as well, plus Wesley Snipes is simply incredible in this!. I didn't really know what to expect from this movie, as the reason i rented it was because Wesley Snipes is one of my favorites, and i was really quite surprised by how great it was!, plus Chris Rock is outstanding in his small but unforgettable role here. Ice-T really surprised me by giving a very good performance here, and the film has plenty of surprising and shocking moments as well!, plus The ending is especially shocking!. Its quite violent at times and I thought all the characters were very likable, plus Ice-T and Judd Nelosn had above average chemistry together. One of my favorite scenes in this movies is when Nino and his brother Gee Money confront one another on the bridge, and I thought the opening was quite bizarre, plus the character development was pretty good. This is a great gangster film! that's very enjoyable and often powerful, with a very good story and outstanding performances, I highly recommend this one!. The Direction is great!. Mario Van Peebles does a great! job here with very good camera work, cool angles and keeping the film at an engaging pace!. The Acting is outstanding!. Wesley Snipes is amazing as always, and is incredible here, his performance here rivals Al Pacino's performance in Scarface in my opinion, he was also extremely menacing, had some great lines, played a one cold heartless character, he was also very sneaky, and in my opinion Snipes does not get enough recognition for his incredible performance here, its almost Oscar worthy (in my opinion) (Snipes Rules!!!!!). Ice-T surprised me here by giving a very good performance, he was quite convincing, and blended in with the film well I really liked him, he also had decent chemistry with Judd Nelson. Allen Payne is great as Nino's brother, he did what he had to do very well, I also liked him. Chris Rock is outstanding here as Pookie, he had a small but very memorable role, and I was thinking to myself is this really Chris Rock?, he was that good!. Mario Van Peebles is OK here, but didn't have much to do and did his job adequately. Bill Nun is great as Duh Duh Duh Man, I have always liked this guy. Judd Nelson is inconsistent here sometimes he was good, sometimes he was terrible, and awfully wooden, he was OK i guess. Rest of the cast do fine. Overall I highly recommend this one!. ***1/2 out of 5
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New Jack is an accurate portrayal of criminal justice as oppression
Crjmack126 September 2005
I am a criminal justice student. I am not the po-lice. Instead, I academically study the "Why" or "causes" of crime. I am burning the midnight oil tonight writing a paper about how this movie accurately portrayed three arguments of how the criminal justice system acts as an oppressor. First, this movie is about the "Crack" scare which lead to politicians adopting get tough mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. These laws pertaining to Crack Cocaine sentencing have a sentencing disparity: 500 grams Powder Cocaine=5years v. 5 grams Crack Cocaine=5 years. That has been called an example of laws being used "to further racial disparity and sanction racial harms" because people of color are the ones that are primarily arrested for crack cocaine offenses. Secondly, the poor-remember the neighborhood and how Nino and his gang were small timers until they rose to the top. Well, the police focus their arresting attention on the poor.Their crimes are sought after and punishment is imposed while the middle and upper classes crimes are most often ignored. Thirdly, blacks being targeted for drug charge arrests is a way to control what Marx calls the Surplus Population-the people that society doesn't really need.It can also be looked at like this, our criminal justice system is controlled by professional white males and a Nino Brown-one who makes it out of poverty by alternative means is an affront to the system that put the white professional in power because they consider it cheating and they feel that he doesn't have a place at their table because he is black. The Kennedy's and the Rockefeller's back in the day made their money through illegal means-and now they are respectable-what's the difference?
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Coulda been better, but that's hindsight talking...
tommythegun21 February 2001
To its credit, New Jack City remains an obligatory stop on the tour of gangster/drug-lord epics. If I were a sociologist or an historian charting the history of 20th century American crime through its cinema, I would showcase New Jack along with Scarface as the best example of both the situation and attitudes towards it during the 1980's in the Eastern United States.

Okay, the story is heavily borrowed from Scarface, consciously. Several minutes of film are used to let us know this, showing the drug baron and his entourage enjoying an evening with the climax shootout of DePalma's contribution to the same canon showing. The story is familiar: ambitious criminal becomes rich and powerful thanks to America's 1980's appetite for cocaine, in this case crack cocaine sold to the inner city rather than the powder cocaine provided for the upper crust, engages in brutal wars with rivals for market share, become megalomaniacal, overambitious, overexposed and neglectful of the realities of his existence, and finally, gradually, gets taken down by personal fractures within his own organization and by the police. This particular production devotes more screen time to the police than others, dividing time between the sides almost evenly and developing the story as a war/vendetta between the police and the dealer, as opposed to simply being a Rise and Fall of the dealer, but the ground is familiar.

The movie is pretty decent at what it does. Characters are rather well developed. We don't have cardboard cut-outs of good cops, bad dealer... or bad cops, worse dealer... or any of the other possible cliches. Nino Brown, the dealer, is shown realistically. He is intelligent, ambitious, sees an opportunity where it exists and moves to take advantage. We hear in an early speech that he intends to get his along with everyone else in the Reagan era, and so is taking the only route he has left to it. He is also extremely fallible: combative, egomaniacal, unstable, imperious, more suited to solving problems with mindless violence rather than thought-out maneuvering and Machiavellianism. He is tailor-made for this role of a mid-level drug boss who comes up hard and fast on a head of steam, but ultimately doesn't develop what it takes to last. A 1980's Al Capone. Scotty Appleton, Ice-T's cop and Wesley Snipes' foil in this story, is a rough, play-it-his-own-way experienced narco cop with a chip on his shoulder. On the outs with his own department, he gets a rare door back in when his superior gets the green light to head up a task force to take down Nino Brown. He is the classic movie cop since Dirty Harry: independent, angry, very aggressive, the classic lone blue guardian defending us nice people from the hordes at the gates. His mother was killed by a drug addict when he was a boy, he hates what he's seen drugs do to his neighborhood, he is on the thin line as to whether or not he will take the bad guy to court or take him out. Ice-T's not the deepest actor in the world, but he plays the conflict decently enough.

This movie is definitely a New York movie. Those who haven't spent much time in New York or around New Yorkers probably will tend to think that some of this movie, particularly the characters, strain credibility. But in the light of it's cultural setting, both in terms of time and place, it captures well enough. The characters in terms of their behavior and thinking are accurate enough and the events are similar enough to real things to be believable. The story, in most ways, strains believability only as much as movies always do to keep us, the audience, excited and involved.

Snipes does a good early turn as Nino Brown, we could see here that he was going places. Ice-T was alright, this was before his slide into the video store. Mario van Peebles has a comparitively smaller role as the police superior behind the scenes. He reminded me, more than anything, of John Woo as the old mentor cop in his "Hard Boiled". Judd Nelson did well enough as the Italian Bensonhurst cop suddenly sent up the train into black Bed-Sty.

Where this movie starts to crack a bit is largely based on where and when it was produced and the purpose that it was intended for at the time. We see these things with the clarity of hindsight now. In many ways parallels can be drawn between this and Scarface as 1980's crime cinema and 1930's films of the same type. Scarface was (it was actually a remake of a 1932 film of the same name in fact) a rise and fall type picture of the common hood taking advantage of money and power to be had off of a criminalized product at the time, becoming powerful, then getting killed in business (you more observant types out there will catch Scarface's references to James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart films from the 1920's and '30's within the first five minutes: again just to tell us what we're seeing here). These were morality plays of a type, we see that crime doesn't pay. New Jack was in a similar vein, but of a different type. It serves, as it would have seventy years ago, as a more blatant effort: a clarion call to us nice people in Middle America about the threat facing us (the most blatant, and wildly humorous, example from the '30s would be "Reefer Madness", originally titled "Tell Your Children"). We see here in this movie the very worst depictions of the misery of urban crackheads, the powerful ingenue who profits on evil and the righteous guardians of law and order who sally forth to protect us. We are left with a call, actually shown to us before the credits roll at the end, to gird ourselves for the beast we face. This is the 1980's, when Nancy was telling us to Just Say No, George Bush declared a War on Drugs, and cops started showing up in Dare classes to every sixth-grader in America; and New Jack City was on the cinema propaganda front in this war.

The best example is the moral tone of the movie. Beyond its obviousness as such a clarion call, not much shading is used in the characters on the respective sides, a serious hit to the credibility of the film. The good guys, the cops and theirs, might get close to the line, but they never cross it. Ice-T's cop, with all his worldly sensibility, is on a crusade. Even with that, he doesn't do the Dirty Harry thing, killing the bad guy when he has a chance, and instead takes him in, in a move to do a 1930's movie cop proud. While the drug dealers, even with some good character development, are shown to be primarily mindlessly greedy and ambitious and totally self-absorbed. Maybe not far-off in some cases, but contrast it with Catherine Zeta-Jones character in "Traffic". Significantly, corruption on any level, always a significant factor in the drug business and a depressing reminder in nearly every other drug-lord pic (including Scarface) of how the unstoppable profitability of drugs draws all comers, is never portrayed or mentioned at all.

On a lesser, more subtle level, we see the other elements of the 1980's inner-city drug business: crack being the drug of choice, the takeover of whole neighborhoods and apartment blocks at the point of a gun, gang wars, the whole bit. All of it seems just a bit out of place, a relic of a time before we started "winning" the War on Crime. But it serves to drive home the central disconnect. I just happened to see this movie again recently on cable shortly after seeing "Traffic": the jaded, "poorer-but-wiser", portrayal of Drugged America, 2001, in the theater, so I picked up on it in a flash.

This film is a product of not just a physical and temporal environment, but a psychological, social, political and moral environment so different from our own today. When crack first started bringing that so very jealous god Cocaine within reach of the urban poor; urban youths were fighting wars over it and turning American cities into Beirut; ambitious, brutal but short-sighted hoodlums were trading most of the rest of their lives for millions of dollars; no one had ever heard of "medical marijuana" and we had Republicans who actually didn't inhale in office: naturally we got a war, an all-out, all-encompasing, uncompromising effort to enlist All the Americans in a crusade.

Twelve years later, things have changed a bit. The drug endemic, both in business and in its effects, has undergone a "correction" and become more stable, less outwardly violent and more distributed outside the cities. Crack has waned in popularity and market share. Laws have become harsher and wider-ranging and police have become more numerous and more aggressive. Over a million people, including a lot of those who would have been dealing and killing with abandon ten years ago, have been penned up in prisons since then. Those that do make fortunes in drugs are smarter, less ambitious and less overt. We have been "winning" the war on crime. But even in that, we've hit a lot of limits. We've barely scratched the actual drug business itself or its loyal customers. We are concerned about more and more about the costs of this war. We are asking what's the point of fighting a war and asking whether we really want to fight a war anyways. The focus of the problem has shifted from drugs being about "other" people, as inner-city blacks and latinos, who have seen plenty of examples not to follow over the past fifteen years, have learned to avoid crack cocaine and left the current hot "front" in the war around less-urbanized whites and their burgeoning appetite for crystal meth. We are willing to look at alternatives and speak truths unmentionable a decade ago. We even tacitly admit that the US President used cocaine. Ultimately, we've more or less accepted that an uneasy stability is a lot easier to deal with, a lot safer, a lot easier, probably a lot more profitable for everyone and just generally better than engaging full-bore in a pointless and unwinnable war that we don't even really want to fight anyways. If the War on Drugs is Vietnam II, then the 1980's was 1966 and today is more like 1970.

And that's ultimately the disconnect people probably feel about this movie. It's from a different era and a different attitude about the "War". Watch it next to "Traffic". For our era, it is the same thing as watching "The Green Berets", one of John Wayne's last serious efforts at a war movie in 1968, right at the climax of Vietnam, where he tries to do us proud against the evil Communist North Vietnamese; and then watching "Platoon".
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9/10
Excellent depiction of the war on drugs
Avg. Joe26 June 2002
"New Jack City" is probably one of the best films of the early 1990s. Here we have the story of Nino Brown, played powerfully by Wesley Snipes, a drug lord hell-bent on contaminating the community, particularly the African-American community, with crack cocaine. Recruited to stop him are Scotty Applewhite and Nick Perreti, played respectively by Ice-T and Judd Nelson.

There is much doubt about these two officers because of their shady pasts. And a big brouhaha occurs when Applewhite recruits a kid named Pookie - played brilliantly by comedian Chris Rock in one of his early roles - a former "runner" (which is street for dealer) turned addict himself. Ice puts Pookie on the road to recovery and sends him in to infiltrate the CMB (Cash Money Brothers), Brown's underworld organization. When things start to go wrong, Applewhite decides to infiltrate the group himself.

All in all this is a great movie. I love the producers' use of music throughout the movie as a means of setting the tone for this cinematic war on drugs. Mario Van Peeples does an excellent job of directing and does a pretty good job playing the officer who recruits Applewhite and Perreti. Ice-T is excellent in one of his earliest roles and, thus, has proven to be a good character actor. And the supporting cast is top-notch. Michael Michelle (of "ER" fame) is totally sexy as an early financeer of CMB and an initial love interest of Snipes.

I could surely live without Judd Nelson as Nick Perreti though. Throughout the movie he looks like he's trying to be this bad-a** biker cop and comes off as though he's trying to be black, though his response to a comment made by Rock regarding a Marvin Gaye song suggests that maybe he's a bit of a racist. Casting Nelson makes me wonder sometimes "WHAT THE F*** WERE THEY THINKING??? A BRAT-PACKER???"

The ending to the movie could be stronger as well as it seems a bit cut-and-paste for my taste. I feel that they could've shown more testimony from more of the different players. However, they do redeem themselves with a violent confrontation between Nino Brown and an elderly World-War II veteran who had been evicted from the apartment building that the CMB now occupied and who had since been hounding him with phrases like (and this is not an exact quote), "Your soul is required for a meeting in Hell, you idolater."

I suggest that you look past Judd Nelson's weak acting and the cut-and-paste ending and check this movie out. Sadly, this story still holds true today even if some of the players are different.

I give this one 9 of 10.
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8/10
New jack city (SPOILER)
dotti_19953 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Back in the early 1990's when New Jack City came out, I never wanted to see it. Sure, it was a big movie. Everyone seemed to have seen it and loved it. I just never thought there was anything in the movie for me. I hated the music, didn't understand the culture, and hated watching violence. There was nothing about the movie which appealed to me.

Since that time, however, I have watched become more appreciative of the world around me. I experienced a lot more, and have come to grips with the virtues and the ills of the world.

Through more adult eyes, I finally decided to give this movie a chance. I was staying at a friend's house, and he needed to go out for a little while. I was bored out of my mind, and the man had no internet access and no cable. What else could I do but slip a DVD in. If he hadn't gone out, I still wouldn't know what I was missing.

New Jack City is a take on the story of Scarface. Wesley Snipes plays a common street thug. He's your average, run of the mill, relatively harmless, corner dealer. However, Snipes has big ambitions and a new product to push. He is on the forefront of the crack revolution. Like Tony Montana from Scarface, you see Snipes rise in power from a street thug to a drug king-pin.

Snipes' performance is matched only by its other star, Ice-T. T plays a cop who will do anything to get his man. To enforce the law, T puts himself above all laws, and really goes over the edge. We see this from the very beginning of the movie, when he shoots a suspect. Little does he know that this move will end up being the one which brings him down in the end.

So, like in Scarface, we see Snipes' character gaining power, and like in Deep Cover, we see Ice-T as the cop who tries to get in with the drug dealers he is trying to bring down. It is somewhat predictable, but none the less entertaining.

One of the strengths and weaknesses of this movie is its message. This movie does not over-glamorize the drug scene. Sure, there is plenty of cash, nice suits, and all the other things you expect when a dealer makes it big. However, there is the constant message throughout the movie that the drug life is not the way to go.

The movie opens with statistics of murder rates, and numbers of crack babies being born in New York City. This message is followed through by a hard-hitting scene where some children are preaching anti-drug slogans. As Ice-T watches, the children switch from their anti-drug slogans to playing on a playground filled with empty crack vials. This is one of the best scenes in the movie.

The use of children to bring home an anti-drug message is consistent throughout the movie. The children are witness to many of the harshest parts of drug life. At one point, a neighborhood man steps in to make Snipes' character and the whole clique realize that he is killing his own people, and bringing down a generation of young folks. His message, as well as this whole scene sort of hit you over the head. The message is there anyway. I am not sure it needed to be reiterated in so many scenes.

After a while, the message got so over-used, it became funny. By this point, my friend was back home and watching the movie with me. We both were laughing out loud as scene after scene reiterated the same message. At the end of the movie a little editorial pops up on the screen for one last clobbering. It is a shame, but at the end of a really good movie, I was left laughing and singing "God Bless America." They really could have been less preachy.

The movie is also filled with a lot of violence. Most of the violence is gun-related. There is probably more blood spilled in this movie than there was even in Scarface. In some parts of the movie it truly helps the plot, but sometimes it is just gratuitous. I am not sure where the line can be drawn, but the line is crossed at several times, and the movie suffers because of it.

So the story wasn't new to me, the messages were made to hit you over the head, and the action was over the top. Why am I recommending this movie, anyway? It must be the acting. Snipes and T give outstanding performances. It is also a period piece. This movie was one of the first to cash in on hip-hop culture, and the crack epidemic. Also, there is something you just can't quite place your finger on in this movie. No matter how predictable and trite the movie got, I was still wrapped up in it.

In some ways, this movie differed from Scarface and Deep Cover. In Scarface, you really began to side with Tony, the man who rose through the ranks like Snipes character did. In Deep Cover, you began to sympathize with undercover cop whose allegiances were blurred. In this movie, you never really feel sorry for anybody, except the old man who sees the problems and is willing to stand up for what he believes is right. The only problem is, it is easy to forget the old man exists throughout a lot of the movie. Also, he is the one whose messages clobbers the viewers over the head.

If you haven't already seen this movie, you really should anyway. It is extremely dated, but still entertaining. The action scenes are well executed, and the acting is superb.
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8/10
tough crime thriller
winner5518 July 2006
The main actors in this film have recently been taking turns I don't care for. Ice-T has gone black-Republican on us in Law and Order; Van Peebles made a series of forgettable (indeed, embarrassing) excuses for 'action films', including one in which he had to have a gunfight with Satan (huh?) and lost, as far as I'm concerned. And after a string of knockdown thrillers including the Blade trilogy, Wesley Snipes has started turning up on direct-to-video trash. Is Hollywood really that poisonous for strong male actors of color? Maybe; Jackie Chan has recently flown back to Holng Kong, and in his last US interview bemoaned that there were no strong roles for Asian actors in Hollywood; one can expect that this applies to African-Americans as well - despite the fact that the African-American audiences contribute more than a third of Hollywood's revenues these days.

At any rate, this is the film that made these three men actors worthy of attention. There are flaws in it to be sure, primarily of continuity - there are moments for which we are unprepared, and loose ends that don't get tied. The "Cash Money" drug cartel never gets its act together as a criminal organization - which may be the point, but in which case this needs greater exploration on the street level - without soldiers, you have no army, a lesson the Mafia could still teach the younger gangs.

But taken all-in-all, this is a tough crime thriller, well-presented, with an excellent cast at their strongest. The real winner here is Wesley Snipes, who plays a role we don't usually identify with him, and does so with considerable verve. He is utterly believable; the scene where he describes first killing someone while high on drugs, scared the crap out of me - this is not someone I want as a friend! - which happens to be a central theme of the movie.

Despite flaws, highly recommended. And some of the performances are strong enough to make you forget the flaws and just feel the movie - which is what we call good acting in a good film.
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