1990s Violent Crime Thriller Is The Scarface Of Its Decade, Stream Immediately

By Charlene Badasie | Published

new jack city

The 1991 crime drama New Jack City is streaming on Tubi. Directed by Mario Van Peebles, the movie is known for highlighting the crack epidemic in New York City during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The stellar ensemble cast includes Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Judd Nelson, Bill Cobbs, and Van Peebles.

Nino Brown, Crack King Of New York

new jack city

New Jack City follows the rise and fall of Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes), a charismatic drug lord who builds a powerful empire in Harlem by selling crack cocaine via his gang, the Cash Money Brothers (CMB). His crew includes his childhood friend and right-hand man, Gee Money (Allen Payne), the enforcer Duh Duh Duh Man (Bill Nunn), and Nino’s girlfriend, Selina Thomas (Michael Michele), among others.

Nino’s Gang Becomes An Empire

new jack city

Nino’s ambition knows no bounds. He transforms an apartment complex into a crack den and ruthlessly eliminates rivals. Scotty Appleton (Ice-T), an undercover detective, soon infiltrates Nino’s drug organization to bring him to justice with the help of his informant, Pookie (Chris Rock), with whom he had a previous run-in.

As the years pass, Nino’s empire thrives, with the gang maintaining control over the streets of Harlem. After exploring themes of crime, corruption, and the devastating impact of the drug trade on communities, New Jack City ends in a massive confrontation between Nino and the police. Once the gang collapses, it doesn’t take long for the law to catch up with him.

Inspired By Real Gangsters

new jack city

New Jack City was written by Thomas Lee Wright and Barry Michael Cooper. However, the story initially focused on the heroin trade instead of cocaine. Wright crafted a treatment for Paramount based on this concept, drawing inspiration from interviews with people from Little Italy in New York and incorporating elements from the narrative of real-life crime boss Nicky Barnes.

Barnes had built his criminal empire in Harlem by mirroring the organizational model of the Mafia. Paramount loved Wright’s idea, and he was tasked with developing the first draft.

The Reception

The film was a commercial success, earning over $47 million worldwide on a budget of approximately $8 million. However, New Jack City received mixed reviews from critics.

While some praised New Jack City for its social commentary and performances, others criticized it for its controversial portrayal of violence and its perceived glamorization of drug culture. The film’s gritty depiction of the crack epidemic and its impact on communities sparked debates about the responsibility of filmmakers in addressing social issues.

A Reboot?

In 2019, it was reported that Warner Bros. was working on a reboot of New Jack City with Snowfall actor and filmmaker Malcolm M. Mays. However, nothing seems to have come of the project since then.

New Jack City’s Legacy

In September 2022, film producer Je’Caryous Johnson launched a stage adaptation titled New Jack City: Live on Stage, with Allen Payne reprising his role as Gee Money.

New Jack City left a lasting legacy in popular culture. It is often cited as an important film in the urban crime genre, capturing the zeitgeist of the crack epidemic in the early 1990s. Its soundtrack, featuring tracks like “New Jack Hustler” by Ice-T, is celebrated as a classic in hip-hop track. It remains a film that reflects the challenges of urban life during a tumultuous period in American history.