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New Jack City
New jack city.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mario Van Peebles
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by Thomas Lee Wright
Music by
  • Vassal Benford
  • Michel Colombian
Cinematography Francis Kenny
Edited by Steven Kemper
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • January 17, 1991 (1991-01-17) (SFF)
  • March 8, 1991 (1991-03-08) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[1]
Box office $47.6 million (US)[1]

New Jack City is a 1991 American action gangster film based upon an original story and screenplay by Thomas Lee Wright, and directed by Mario Van Peebles in his directorial debut, who also co-stars in the film. The film stars Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Mario Van Peebles and Judd Nelson. The film was released in the United States on March 8, 1991.[2]

Wesley Snipes plays Nino Brown, a rising drug-lord in New York City during the crack epidemic. Ice-T plays Scotty Appleton, a detective who vows to stop Nino's criminal activity by going undercover to work for Nino's gang.


The story begins in Harlem, 1986, and Nino Brown and his gang, the Cash Money Brothers (CMB), become the dominant drug ring in New York City once crack cocaine is introduced to the streets. His gang consists of his best friend, Gee Money; enforcer Duh Duh Duh Man; gun moll Keisha; Nino's girlfriend, Selina, and her tech-savvy cousin, Kareem. Nino converts the Carter, an apartment complex, into a crack house. Gee Money and Keisha kill rival Fat Smitty, the CMB throws out the tenants, and Nino forces the landlord out onto the streets naked. Meanwhile, Undercover detective Scotty Appleton attempts to make a deal with stick-up kid Pookie, but Pookie runs off with the money. Scotty chases Pookie and shoots him in the leg, but the police let him go. Nino's gang successfully run the streets of Harlem over the next three years.

When Det. Stone comes under pressure, Scotty volunteers to infiltrate Nino's gang and is partnered with loose-cannon Nick Peretti. Elsewhere, mobster Frankie Needles attempts to collect taxes from Nino, who refuses to pay. While Scotty and Nick spy on Nino and his gang as they hand out Thanksgiving turkeys to the poor, Scotty spots Pookie, now a crack addict, as Pookie beats his junkie girlfriend. Instead of arresting him, Scotty puts Pookie in rehab, and, later, Pookie offers to help bring down Nino. Against his better judgment and the disapproval of Stone and Peretti, Scotty recruits Pookie as an informant in the Carter.

When Pookie relapses, Gee Money realizes that he is wired, and he orders the Carter destroyed. The cops find Pookie's bloody corpse, but it is booby-trapped; Nick defuses the explosives mere seconds before it explodes. Angry, Nino warns Gee Money not to make such a costly mistake again. After Pookie's funeral and no longer needed by Stone, Scotty and Nick go undercover as drug dealers. After bribing Frankie Needles, Scotty infiltrates the CMB due in part to Gee Money's increasing ambition and drug use. Though Nino distrusts them, he agrees to do business. After relating an anecdote about his own violent initiation into a gang, Nino warns that he will kill both Scotty and Gee Money if there are any problems.

Scotty gains Nino's trust when he reveals information about Gee Money's side deal and saves Nino from a gun-toting old man who had earlier attempted to convince the police of Nino's destructiveness. While Nino, Scotty, and the CMB attend a wedding, Nick sneaks into Nino's mansion to collect evidence, and Don Armeteo sends hitmen to assassinate Nino; a massive shootout erupts between the CMB and hitmen. When Nino uses a child as a shield, Scotty attempts to shoot Nino behind his back. Keisha is gunned down as she sprays bullets into the hitmen's van as they escape. Later, Selina condemns Nino for his murderous activities, and Nino throws her out. Nino later kills Don Armeteo and his crew from a speeding motorcycle in retaliation for the wedding shootout.

Stone, Scotty, and Nick arrange a sting operation to nab Nino. Kareem, who knows that Scotty and Pookie are connected, blows Scotty's cover, and a shootout ensues. Nick saves Scotty by killing the Duh Duh Duh Man, and Nino escapes. That night, Nino confronts Gee Money, who accuses Nino of egotism, and Nino regretfully kills him. After the gang's collapse, Nino holes up in an apartment and continues his criminal empire solo. Scotty and Nick assault the complex, and Scotty brutally beats Nino, revealing that it was his mother that Nino killed in his gang initiation. Nick talks Scotty out of killing Nino, who is taken into custody amid threats of retaliation.

At his trial, Nino pleads guilty to a lesser charge, claims to have been forced to help the gang due to threats, and identifies Kareem as the leader. When Nino is sentenced to only one year in jail, Scotty is outraged. As Nino speaks with reporters outside of the courtroom, the old man again confronts Nino and shoots him in the chest. Scotty and Nick are both satisfied as Nino falls over the balcony to his death. As onlookers look down at Nino's body, an epilogue states to the viewers that decisive action must be taken to stop real-life Nino Brown analogues.


  • Wesley Snipes as Nino Brown, an arrogant, smart drug kingpin. He was the murderer of Scotty's mother.
  • Ice T as Scotty Appleton, a New York police detective who vows to bring Nino down as retribution since Nino was clearly responsible for Scotty's mother's death.
  • Allen Payne as Gerald "Gee Money" Wells; Nino's childhood friend and the second-in-command of the Cash Money Brother's (CMB).
  • Chris Rock as "Pookie" Benny Robinson; a former stick-up kid who becomes homeless and poor after Scotty shoots him in the ankle. He also became a crack addict afterwards then eventually became a police informant and infiltrates the CMB at the Carter until he was caught sneaking drugs and killed.
  • Judd Nelson as Nick Peretti; Scotty's partner in the CMB investigation.
  • Mario Van Peebles as Stone; the leader of the CMB police operation.
  • Michael Michele as Selina Thomas; Nino Brown's girlfriend who becomes extremely jealous when Nino falls for Gee Money's girlfriend.
  • Bill Nunn as the Duh Duh Duh Man; the CMB enforcer and Nino's personal bodyguard.
  • Russell Wong as Park; a tech-savvy police officer who has Pookie use high technology for his infiltration.
  • Bill Cobbs as Old man; an elderly man who is against Nino's crimes towards the city. At the end of the film, he kills Nino as he exits the courtroom by shooting him in the chest; Nino then falls to his death.
  • Christopher Williams as Kareem Akbar; a bank teller turned gang member of the CMB.
  • Vanessa A. Williams as Keisha; a female gang member of the CMB.
  • Tracy Camilla Johns as Uniqua; Gee Money's ex-girlfriend who falls for Nino.
  • Anthony DeSando as Frankie Needles In His Arms; a mobster who has connections towards the CMB from his boss, Don Armeteo. Around the film, Nick and Scotty forces him to bring Gee Money to let Scotty join the gang.
  • Nick Ashford as Reverend Oates
  • Keith Sweat as singer at the wedding
  • Flavor Flav as a DJ.[3]


The film is based upon an original story and screenplay written by Thomas Lee Wright[4] who had previously penned a draft of The Godfather Part III[5] and would go on to write, direct and produce a seminal documentary of American gang life, Eight Tray Gangster: The Making of a Crip.[6]

The screenplay was co-written by journalist turned screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper, who also scripted 1994's Above the Rim, and Sugar Hill, which also starred Snipes. Cooper is the first African American screenwriter in history to have two films produced in one year: Sugar Hill was released on February 25, 1994 by Beacon-20th Century Fox Pictures, and Above the Rim was released on March 23, 1994 by New Line Cinema.

Barry Michael Cooper's rewrite was based on a December 1987 The Village Voice cover story written by Cooper titled "Kids Killing Kids: New Jack City Eats Its Young".[7] The story revolved around the 20th anniversary of the 1967 riots in Detroit, and in its wake, Nicky Barnes, rise of crack cocaine gangs in the late 1980s, such as Young Boys Inc., and the Chambers Brothers.

It is set and filmed in New York City between April 16 and June 6, 1990.


Harlem's real life Graham Court, known in the film as the "Carter".
Harlem's real life Graham Court, known in the film as the "Carter".

New Jack City received a favorable reception by film critics for its cast, storyline and soundtrack.[8] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, writing:

Truffaut once said it was impossible to make an anti-war movie, because the war sequences would inevitably be exciting and get the audience involved on one side or the other. It is almost as difficult to make an anti-drug movie, since the lifestyle and money of the drug dealers looks like fun, at least until they're killed. This movie pulls off that tricky achievement. Nino, who looks at the dead body of Scarface and laughs, does not get the last laugh.[9]

Time Out London described the film as "a superior example of what used to be called blaxploitation."[10]

The film initially premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 1991, before being released nationally on March 8, 1991. The film, produced with an estimated $8,000,000 budget, grossed $7,039,622 during its opening weekend. It became the highest grossing independent film of 1991, grossing a total of $47,624,253 domestically. The film holds a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes.

American Film Institute Lists


Home media

DVD was released in Region 1 in the United States on August 25, 1998 and Region 2 in the United Kingdom on July 26, 1999, it was distributed by Warner Home Video. DVD was re-released as a Two-Disc Special Edition in Region 1 in the United States on August 23, 2005 and Region 2 in the United Kingdom on January 23, 2006.

Special Edition DVD features:

  1. Commentary by: director and co-star Mario Van Peebles
  2. New Jack City: A Hip-Hop Classic
  3. Harlem World: A Walk Inside
  4. The Road to New Jack City
  5. Original music videos: "New Jack Hustler" (Nino's Theme) by Ice T, "I'm Dreamin'" by Christopher Williams, and "I Wanna Sex You Up" by Color Me Badd
  6. Original theatrical trailer

Cultural impact

The New Orleans based Rap label Cash Money Records is named after the Cash Money Brothers gang.[13] Cash Money Records rapper Lil Wayne has a series of albums titled Tha Carter after The Carter Complex,[14] and Lil Wayne and Tyga have referred to themselves as Young Nino.[15][16] Wrestler New Jack got his name from this movie.[citation needed] Comedian Gary Gulman references the movie in his Comedy Central special "In This Economy," when tirading against the now defunct Blockbuster video and their late fee policies.[17]


  1. ^ a b "New Jack City (1991)". Box Office Mojo. May 21, 1991. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  2. ^ Blaise, Judd. "New Jack City (1991)". Allmovie. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  3. ^ "Imdb cameos". Imdb. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  4. ^ (as determined by Writers Guild of America arbitration),
  5. ^ see The Godfather Companion by Peter Biskind (HarperPerennial, 1990), pages 134-5
  6. ^ The film told the story of the Rodney King riots from a gang member's perspective and a review in The Hollywood Reporter called the Discovery Channel production "more frightening and sympathetic than any existing dramatic films on the subject".
  7. ^ "Hooked On The American Dream-Vol.1: New Jack City Eats Its Young - Kindle edition by Barry Michael Cooper. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @". Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  8. ^ Wilmington, Michael (March 8, 1991). "Plot Twists Litter Harlem Thriller 'New Jack City'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  9. ^ Roger Ebert. "New Jack City". Chicago Sun-Times. May 1, 1991.
  10. ^ "New Jack City (2015), directed by Mario Van Peebles | Film review". Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  11. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  13. ^ "Cash Money Records - The Independent Years (1991-1998) at the Amoeblog". July 31, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  14. ^ Andy Kellman (June 29, 2004). "Tha Carter - Lil Wayne | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  15. ^ "Lil Wayne – D.O.A. Lyrics | Genius". Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "Young Nino, fuck a bitch in a peacoat – Faded Lyrics Meaning". Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  17. ^

External links

This page was last edited on 8 September 2018, at 03:39
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