Episode #43: New Jack City
Listen to Episode 43 of the Podcast here while you enjoy the show notes.
SUMMARY - In New Jack City, Wesley Snipes plays Nino Brown, a drug dealing kingpin who is determined to control all of New York by any means necessary. He’s keeping his close friends at the top, but at this level of power, you never know who you can trust. Maybe someone is working with the cops who are aggressively working to take Nino and his whole operation down.
Screenplay by Thomas Lee Wright and Barry Michael Cooper; Directed by Mario Van Peebles, and debuting at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 1991.
The movie is quick to set the tone with aerial shots of the city and radio stations acting as scene-setting commentary for the societal issues that create the environment the gangsters thrive in. Nino is introduced to us as he has this person dropped from the bridge.
Then we see the stylized filmmaking choices during the chase sequence with Ice-T and Chris Rock. A lot of canted angles and focus on 90s guerilla run-and-gun shots with a little mix of aerial.
The movie shows us early on that even when it's looking to be gritty, it wants to do it in style - like mounting the camera to the falling body.
The story is a tad simplistic and while there are quite a few characters, very few of them have much of a character.
For instance, Judd Nelson's character largely felt like a token inclusion.
But others with more screen time, like Rock's Pookie, were intriguing. Rock did a great job with this role except for this scene unfortunately.
The star is Wesley Snipes, of course. The biggest downside to his character is that he is pure villain, so while he's fascinating to watch, it is impossible to root for him.
Music was a big part of the movie as well. From the soundtrack to including a lot of musicians as actors.
The film does a good job of sprinkling in the social commentary without being too heavy-handed. Bill Cobbs leads the charge there.
Still, there was a lot that didn't make sense about the police plot. It was impossible to understand why they were saying they had nothing when clearly there was video of high-ranking gang members talking about the operation.
Regardless, it's easy to see why this caught the attention of audiences. It set the bar at the time, even if it lacked polish.
Awards Talk: The movie earned a NAACP Image Awards nominations for Outstanding Motion Picture and a Best Actor Win. At the MTV Movie Awards, it was nominated for Best Breakthrough Performance for Ice-T, Best Villain for Snipes, and Best Movie Song but took away no golden popcorns.
TRUE CRIME & POP CULTURE
This week, our True Crime discussion is about writer Barry Michael Cooper's original articles that he used as inspiration for writing the film. He chronicled the lives of the Chamber brothers in Detroit. Please take a look at these articles for more information on their history.
Barry Michael Cooper "Kids Killing Kids" Article
Detroit Chamber Brothers
Our quick music discussion centered around this article on the New Jack City soundtrack
On to TV, we discuss the recent rumors about a possible sequel/prequel.
RANKINGS & RATINGS
Nikki 1-5 star scale - 3 out of 5
Jon 0-4 star scale - 3 out of 4
Would you watch it again? - Sure. The plot may not make tons of sense all the time, but it's a fun, fascinating popcorn movie that also has worthwhile social commentary. We certainly recognize the historical significance of the film and the performance by Wesley Snipes alone would have us coming back.
If you want to watch New Jack City, as of this recording in December 2021, it’s available on Digital Rental, VHS, DVD. Check your local listings.
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Join us next time for Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Smart Story available on Tubi, IMDBTV, Roku Channel, Digital Rental, VHS, DVD