New Jack City was a game changing film. An instant #CultureClassic that still has influence in The Culture to this day.
New Jack City is the 1991 crime drama directed by Mario Van Peebles (making his directorial debut). The film stars Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, and Mario Van Peebles himself and was released on March 8, 1991.
Wesley Snipes brilliantly portrays Nino Brown, a rising drug-lord and leader of the Cash Money Brothers in New York City during the crack epidemic. Ice-T plays Scotty Appleton, a street wise detective who vows to stop Nino’s criminal activity by going undercover to work for Nino’s gang.
Rock memorably plays the recovering crack addict Pookie who goes undercover for the police to infiltrate the CMB. And Allen Payne plays Nino’s brother and partner in the CMB, Gee Money who’s ambition and recklessness makes him both imposing and sympathetic. Eventually Scotty is able to infiltrate Nino Brown’s inner circle and the film truly heats up.
The battle between the CMB and the NYPD is violent, exhilarating, and personal. And the film overall is a powerful, gripping narrative of urban poverty, disenfranchisement, hustle, and, ultimately, young Black manhood. As part of the early 90’s stable of “urban movies”, New Jack City more than holds it’s own and tells a gripping and important tale.
There are so many iconic scenes and classic lines. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” “It keeps calling me.” , “Cancel that b%$#…I’ll buy another one.” And without spoiling anything, Nino and Gee Money’s final scene and the courthouse scene…whew.
New Jack City is based upon an original story and screenplay written by Thomas Lee Wright who later wrote, directed and produced Eight Tray Gangster: The Making of a Crip, a documentary of gang life in South Central Los Angeles. The screenplay was also co-written by Barry Michael Cooper who also wrote Above the Rim and Sugar Hill. The film cost only $8 million to make and made $47.6 mill at the box office making it a certified hit as well as a #CultureClassic.
The music was just as big a part of the film as anything. Being named after and dropping in the midst of the New jack Swing music revolution, the music in the movie and its accompanying soundtrack both knocked. The lineup included Guy, Keith Sweat, Color Me Badd, Johnny Gill, and Al B. Sure! The soundtrack reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 going platinum. The lead singles were “I’m Dreamin’,” performed by Christopher Williams (who also stars in the film), and “For the Love of Money/Living for the City,” performed by Troop, LeVert, and Queen Latifah.
Snipes and Ice-T were originally meant to play the opposite roles. With the action hero Snipes slated to play the heroic cop and gangsta rapper Ice-T to play the villainous drug lord. But when Van Peoples auditioned them both he made he daring decision to switch their roles. And the rest is history…
We hope enjoyed this look back at New Jack City. Check out some more #CultureClassics here:
Written by @TalentedMrFord