New Jack City

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This article is about the film. For the soundtrack, see New Jack City (soundtrack). For the Father Ted episode, see New Jack City (Father Ted). For the Kickin' It episode, see List of Kickin' It episodes#ep41.
New Jack City
New jack city.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mario Van Peebles
Produced by Doug McHenry
George Jackson
Written by Thomas Lee Wright
Barry Michael Cooper
Story by Thomas Lee Wright
Starring Wesley Snipes
Ice T
Allen Payne
Chris Rock
Mario Van Peebles
Judd Nelson
Russell Wong
Music by Vassal Benford
Michel Colombian
Cinematography Francis Kenny
Edited by Steven Kemper
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • 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 $47,624,353 (domestic)[1]

New Jack City is a 1991 American crime film 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 and Judd Nelson. The film was released in the United States on March 8, 1991.[2]

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


Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) and his gang, the Cash Money Brothers, become the dominant drug ring in New York City, once crack cocaine is introduced to the streets, during the late 1980s. Undercover detective Scotty Appleton (Ice T) strikes a deal with stick-up kid, Pookie (Chris Rock). The deal takes a wrong turn when Pookie takes the money and runs off, causing Scotty to have a long chase. He wounds Pookie with his gun and attempts to arrest him, but the police let him go.

Meanwhile, Nino plots to turn an apartment complex (real life Graham Court, known in the film as the "Carter") into a crack house, with the assistance of his best friend/right-hand man, Gee Money (Allen Payne), enforcer, Duh Duh Duh Man (Bill Nunn), gun moll Keisha (Vanessa A. Williams), Nino's girlfriend, Selina (Michael Michele), and her tech-savvy cousin, Kareem Akbar (Christopher Williams). Gee Money and Keisha take out Rastafarian rival, Fat Smitty, while the CMB throws the tenants out the Carter, and Nino forces the building's landlord out into the streets, naked.

After Det. Stone (Mario Van Peebles)—leader of the team tasked with taking down the CMB—is put under pressure by the Police Commissioner, Scotty volunteers to go undercover and infiltrate Nino's gang. He is partnered with loose-cannon, Nick Peretti (Judd Nelson), as they try to convict the gang with evidence of drug trafficking. Elsewhere, Frankie Needles (Anthony DeSando) pays Nino a visit to deliver him a message from mob boss Don Armeteo (John Aprea), who taxes the CMB. Nino scornfully calls for Needles to relay a message back to the Don that he's cutting off taxing him, and that CMB is an independent operation.

While he and Nick are spying on Nino and his crew as they hand out Thanksgiving turkeys to the poor, Scotty spots Pookie, now a crack fiend. He tracks him down just as Pookie was in the middle of beating his junkie girlfriend over the turkey he brought back. Instead of arresting him, Scotty puts Pookie in rehab for his drug addiction. After completing treatment, Pookie wants to return the favor and help Scotty bring down Nino. Against his better judgment, as well the strong disapproval of Stone and Peretti, Scotty recruits Pookie to work undercover at the Carter, gathering incriminating evidence against Nino and the Cash Money Brothers.

However, Pookie ends up relapsing and sneaking drugs. While high, Pookie is caught by Gee Money, who also realizes that he is wired. When the cops realize their cover has been blown, the CMB abandon and burn the Carter complex, including any evidence of their activities with the crack addicted civilians inside. Later, the cops try to reach Pookie, but they find his bloody corpse attached with explosives. Nick defuses the explosives mere seconds before they explode. Meanwhile, when Nino discovers that Gee Money ordered the Carter to be destroyed, he vehemently threatens him to never make a costly mistake again.

After Pookie's funeral, Scotty and Nick take matters into their own hands by going undercover as a drug dealers wanting to do business with Gee Money. Scotty infiltrates the CMB—thanks in part to the ambitions (and increasing drug use) of Gee Money—after they bribe Frankie Needles. Nino doesn't trust Gee Money's new clientele, but agrees to do business with Scotty, warning Gee that if Scotty isn't who he claims, he'll kill the both of them. On their first encounter, Nino tells Scotty a story of how he murdered a school teacher as a part of his initiation into a gang called the L.A. Boyz, as a youth. When questioned by Scotty if the murder was personal or business, Nino explains this away by saying: "My brother, it's always business. Never personal." Scotty further gains the trust of Nino after "saving" him from a gun-toting old man (Bill Cobbs)--who earlier, tried to convince the police of Nino's destruction of the community—and by revealing information about Gee Money's side deal.

While Nino, Scotty and the CMB attend a wedding, Nick sneaks into Nino's mansion to collect the video tapes from the Carter drug operations, in order to gather evidence of Pookie's death and the drugs. After the wedding, Don Armeteo sends hitmen to assassinate Nino. A massive shootout erupts between the CMB and the hitters. After witnessing Nino use a little girl as a shield to protect himself, Scotty attempts to shoot Nino behind his back. Keisha is gunned down as she sprays a hail of bullets into the van the shooters escape in. Later, Selina condemns Nino for his murderous activities and Nino throws her out. Don Armeteo calls Nino to taunt him, explaining that he "needed to be spanked" for his arrogance. Nino threatens him before the Don hangs up. Later, he opens fire on Don Armeteo and his henchman from the back of a speeding motorcycle, killing them all.

Scotty and Nick meet with Stone to arrange a sting operation to nab Nino, once and for all. But at the sting, Scotty's cover is blown by Kareem, who just happened to be at the scene the day Scotty wounded Pookie. A shootout ensues; Nick saves Scotty by killing the Duh Duh Duh Man, before he could open fire on him. Nino manages to escape. That night, he confronts Gee Money for his act of betrayal. Gee accuses Nino of being egotistical, and putting himself over what they built together. Gee wants things to go back to the way they were, but Nino sees no going back, and regretfully kills him.

After the gang's collapse, Nino holes himself up in an apartment and continues his criminal empire, solo. Scotty and Nick infiltrate the complex, with Nick taking out Nino's guards and Scotty crashing into Nino's apartment. Nino is brutally beaten by Scotty, who reveals that the school teacher Nino killed was his mother. For his crimes against the community, as well as his mother's murder, Scotty attempts to kill Nino again, but Nick gets him to put down the gun. As a bloodied Nino is taken into custody, he warns Scotty that he'll be out in a week and that he's a dead man.

At his trial, Nino pleads guilty to a lesser charge and turns state's evidence, falsely claiming that he was forced to work for the CMB because they threatened to kill his mother and pointing the finger at Kareem as the actual leader of CMB. Because his punishment would include at least 12 months prison time, Nino gets only a year in prison, which leaves Scotty outraged. But as he's speaking with reporters outside of the courtroom, Nino is greeted by the old man (who tried to kill him earlier) who says "Idolator! Your soul is required in hell!"; the old man then shoots Nino 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 "Although this is a fictional story, there are Nino Browns in every major city in America. If we don't confront the problem realistically--without empty slogans and promises--then drugs will continue to destroy our country."


  • Wesley Snipes as Nino Brown, an arrogant, smart drug kingpin who uses his ideas into selling cocaine and crack. 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 Appleton'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 Duh Duh Duh Man; the CMB enforcer and Nino's personal bodyguard.
  • Russell Wong as Park; a 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


The film is based on the crack cocaine war in the US. It was the first theatrically released film for director and co-star Mario Van Peebles. The film was based upon an original story and screenplay written by Thomas Lee Wright[3] who had previously penned a draft of The Godfather Part III[4] and would go on to write, direct and produce a seminal documentary of American gang life, Eight Tray Gangster: The Making of a Crip.[5]

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".[6] 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".

New Jack City received a favorable reception by film critics for its cast, storyline and soundtrack.[7] 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.[8]

Time Out London described the film as "a superior example of what used to be called blaxploitation."[9]

New Jack City was produced with an estimated $8,000,000 budget. The film initially premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 1991, before being released nationally on March 8, 1991; it 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 76% on Rotten Tomatoes.

American Film Institute Lists

Home media[edit]

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[edit]

The New Orleans based Rap label Cash Money Records is named after the Cash Money Brothers gang.[12] Cash Money Records rapper Lil Wayne has a series of albums titled "Tha Carter" after The Carter Complex,[13] and Lil Wayne and Tyga have referred to themselves as Young Nino.[14][15] Wrestler New Jack got his name from this movie.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Blaise, Judd. "New Jack City (1991)". Allmovie. Retrieved October 6, 2012. 
  3. ^ (as determined by Writers Guild of America arbitration),
  4. ^ see The Godfather Companion by Peter Biskind (HarperPerennial, 1990), pages 134-5
  5. ^ 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".
  6. ^ Cooper, Barry Michael. "Kids Killing Kids: New Jack City Eats Its Young"; December 1, 1987
  7. ^ Wilmington, Michael (March 8, 1991). "Plot Twists Litter Harlem Thriller 'New Jack City'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  8. ^ Roger Ebert. "New Jack City". Chicago Sun-Times. May 1, 1991.
  9. ^
  10. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
  11. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^

External links[edit]