New Jack City (1991)


Narco Rangers vs. crack hustlers


New Jack City (1991) came to mind after last week’s Colors recommendation.  It is the natural next step in the introduction of the gangsta lifestyle and the brutal impact of crack cocaine on urban life and policing. 

While Colors shows the view of the streets from a patrol perspective, New Jack City is a film that shows the back and forth between drug dealers and narco cops.  It’s a bit more in-your-face and extreme than Colors, but it is entertaining nonetheless. 

This one takes us to Harlem and gives us a look at an upstart but powerful drug gang called Cash Money Brothers (every OCCB/narco detective has investigated a crew with a name so similar it is indistinguishable).  Cash Money Brothers is led by Nino Brown, brilliantly portrayed by Wesley Snipes (by far the best acting job in the film).  The Cash Money Brothers are pitted against a team of detectives led by Stone, played by Mario Van Peebles, Jr. who also directs the film, and lead detective Scotty Appleton, played by Ice-T.  Chris Rock has a memorable role as “Pookie”, a crackhead turned confidential informant. 

The crew has set up its base of operation in The Carter building.  It’s a huge building with a courtyard that is impossible for cops to get into.  The building is actually 1925 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, a massive structure covering West 116th to West 117th Streets in Harlem. 

The detectives must get an in with the Cash Money Brothers, which sets the plot of the film.  It’s a tough nut to crack, and while Appleton and crew’s antics get a bit over the top, many of the problems and solutions are based in reality.  Every detective has tried a litany of tactics to gather evidence or make a drug buy and the viewer gets the point here.

More than anything, New Jack City portrays the troubles of early 1990’s Harlem mired in the crack epidemic.  There are the flamboyant drug dealers, flashing money, and gaining the misguided respect of the kids in the neighborhood.  The film displays the violence that was pervasive during the crack-fueled murder spike that saw New York suffer 2,154 murders in the year the movie was released.  It shows the cops, fighting the good fight, but not winning in the era before properly coordinated and focused policing started winning back the streets.  New Yorkers and many major city residents will be reminded of the bad old days.  It should also remind them of what could always come back.

New Jack City runs about an hour and forty minutes and is pretty much non-stop action.  Even if a bit overacted from today’s viewpoint, it will keep you entertained.  

The film is available for free on Tubi.  You can also rent it on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube, etc. for about $3 or $4.  It’s also available for purchase on those platforms.  Check out the JustWatch website for more info; you can find current updates on where to watch any film or show for free or behind a paywall. 

New Jack City (1991) Official Trailer – Wesley Snipes, Ice-T Movie HD – YouTube







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