New Jack City

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New Jack City
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMario Van Peebles
Screenplay by
Story byThomas Lee Wright
Produced by
CinematographyFrancis Kenny
Edited bySteven Kemper
Music byMichel Colombier
  • The Jackson/McHenry Company
  • Jacmac Films
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • January 17, 1991 (1991-01-17) (Sundance)
  • March 8, 1991 (1991-03-08) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million[1]
Box office$47.6 million (US)[1]

New Jack City is a 1991 American crime action film based on an original story and written by Thomas Lee Wright and Barry Michael Cooper, and directed by Mario Van Peebles in his feature film directorial debut. The film stars Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Judd Nelson, Bill Cobbs, and Van Peebles. Its plot follows Nino Brown, a drug lord in New York City during the crack epidemic, and Scotty Appleton, an NYPD detective who vows to end Nino's rise to power by going undercover to work for Nino's gang.[2]

New Jack City premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 1991, and was released in the United States by Warner Bros. Pictures on March 8, 1991.


In the New York City neighborhood of Harlem, Nino Brown and his gang, the Cash Money Brothers (CMB), become the dominant drug ring once crack cocaine is introduced to the streets. His gang consists of Gerald "Gee Money" Wells, his best friend since childhood; enforcer and personal bodyguard Duh Duh Duh Man; gun moll Keisha; Nino's girlfriend, Selina Thomas; and her tech-savvy cousin, ex-bank teller Kareem Akbar.

Nino converts the Carter apartment complex into a crack house. Gee Money and Keisha kill rival Fat Smitty, and the CMB forces out the tenants and landlord. Meanwhile, Scotty Appleton, an undercover police detective working with the NYPD, attempts to make a deal with stick-up kid Pookie, who absconds with the money. Appleton chases and shoots Pookie in the leg, but released on bail. As the years pass, Nino's gang successfully run the streets of Harlem with absolute power.

When Stone, the leader of the CMB police operation, comes under pressure from NYPD Commissioner Fred R. Price, Appleton, currently on suspension for shooting Pookie, volunteers to infiltrate Nino's gang and is partnered with loose-cannon Nick Peretti. Elsewhere, mobster and tax collector Frankie Needles attempts to get protection money from Nino, who refuses to pay. While Appleton and Peretti observe Nino and his gang handing out Thanksgiving turkeys to the poor, Appleton spots Pookie, now a crack addict, and soon gets him into rehab.

Later, Pookie offers to help bring down Nino. Against his better judgment and the disapproval of Stone and Peretti, Appleton recruits Pookie as an informant. When Pookie relapses, Gee Money realizes that he is wired and orders the Carter destroyed. The cops find Pookie's booby-trapped corpse; Peretti defuses the explosives seconds before it explodes. Nino angrily warns Gee Money against repeating such a costly mistake.

After Pookie's funeral, Appleton and Peretti, no longer needed by Stone, go undercover as drug dealers. After bribing Frankie, Appleton infiltrates the CMB, partly due 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 in 1974, Nino warns that he will kill both Appleton and Gee Money if any problems occur. Appleton gains Nino's trust when he reveals information about Gee Money's side deal and saves him from a gun-toting "Old Man" who had earlier appealed to police for help against Nino.

While Nino, Appleton, and the CMB attend a wedding, Peretti sneaks into Nino's mansion to collect evidence. Don Armeteo, Frankie's boss, sends mobsters to kill Nino, and a massive shootout erupts. When Nino uses a child as a shield, Appleton attempts to shoot Nino in the back; Keisha is killed. Later, Nino throws Selina out when she condemns his nature, before killing Don Armeteo and his crew single-handedly.

Stone, Appleton and Peretti arrange a sting operation to nab Nino. Kareem, aware of Appleton and Pookie's connection, exposes the former, and a shootout ensues. Peretti saves Appleton by killing the Duh Duh Duh Man, and Nino escapes. That night, Nino confronts and regretfully kills Gee Money. After the gang's collapse, Nino holes up in an apartment and continues his criminal empire solo. Appleton, Peretti, and the police assault the complex, where Appleton brutally beats Nino, revealing that it was his mother whom Nino killed in his gang initiation. Peretti dissuades Appleton from killing Nino, who is taken into custody.

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. He is sentenced to only a year in jail. As Nino speaks with reporters outside the courtroom, the Old Man confronts and fatally shoots him in the chest, causing Nino to fall over a balcony to his death. Appleton and Peretti leave satisfied as onlookers look down at Nino's dead body.

In the closing moments, an epilogue states that the crack epidemic is still ongoing and decisive action must be taken to stop real-life Nino Brown analogues.



The film is based upon an original story and screenplay written by Thomas Lee Wright, who had worked as a story editor at The Walt Disney Company and Columbia Pictures before moving to creative executive at Paramount Pictures.[3] According to Carl Hart, who corresponded with Wright following Hart's criticism of New Jack City, the screenplay was originally written as The Godfather: Part III, and featured a protagonist who sold heroin rather than cocaine.[4] Wright wrote a treatment for Paramount on the idea, which they liked enough to have him try to do a first draft. Wright based his script to interviews he had with people from Little Italy in New York along with the story of Nicky Barnes, the black kingpin that had modeled his criminal organization in Harlem after the Mafia. Wright later wrote, directed and produced Eight Tray Gangster: The Making of a Crip, a documentary of gang life in South Central Los Angeles.[5][citation needed]

The screenplay was co-written by Barry Michael Cooper, a former investigative reporter with the Village Voice who would later write the screenplays for the 1994 dramatic films Above the Rim and Sugar Hill, the latter of which also starred Snipes. Cooper's rewrite was adapted from his December 1987 Village Voice cover story entitled "Kids Killing Kids: New Jack City Eats Its Young," about the drug war in Detroit.[6] The account referred to the 20th anniversary of the 1967 riots in Detroit, and in its wake, the rise of crack cocaine gangs in the late 1980s, such as Young Boys Inc., and the Chambers Brothers. The original story received notice from Quincy Jones, who sought a meeting with Cooper. He was then tasked with re-writes on a screenplay that had been done about the life of Nicky Barnes.[7]

Filming occurred 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 was favorably received 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 an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The site's consensus states: "Stylishly directed by Mario Van Peebles, New Jack City offsets its melodramatic streak with electrifying action and a cavalcade of effective performances."[11] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12]

American Film Institute Lists


Year Album Peak chart positions Certifications
U.S. U.S. R&B
1991 New Jack City
  • Released: March 5, 1991
  • Label: Giant
2 1

Home media

The film was released on DVD in Region 1 in the United States on August 25, 1998 and Region 2 in the United Kingdom on July 26, 1999, distributed by Warner Home Video. The film was re-released on DVD 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

The film was released on Blu-ray in the United States by Warner Home Video on August 14, 2012.[16]

Cultural influence

Cooper suggested Teddy Riley name his new genre new jack swing, after the movie.[17] The New Orleans-based hip hop record label Cash Money Records is named after the Cash Money Brothers gang.[18] Cash Money Records rapper Lil Wayne has a series of albums titled Tha Carter after The Carter Complex,[19] and Lil Wayne and Tyga have referred to themselves as Young Nino.[20][21]


In 2019, Deadline announced that Warner Bros are rebooting the film with Malcolm Mays writing.[22]

Stage play adaptation

In September 2022, film producer Je'Caryous Johnson announced the launching of the stage production adaptation of New Jack City: Live on Stage after his successful adaptation of another film, Set It Off: Live on Stage. The stage play stars Allen Payne, who reprises his role as "Gee Money", Treach as Nino Brown, Flex Alexander as "Pookie", Big Daddy Kane as Stone and Gary Dourdan as Scotty. The stage production's first preview ran October 29–30, 2022 at the Gas South Theater in Atlanta, Georgia and then opened a nationwide tour from November 2022 and extended until the summer of 2023.[23] The play returned back by popular demand in January 2024 running in Houston, Texas with a final announced date set for Memphis, Tennessee June 2024.[24] Omar Gooding was cast as Stone, while the latter three actors reprises their role from the tour.[25]

The stage play is produced with special set design arrangements by Warner Bros. Theater Ventures.

See also


  1. ^ a b "New Jack City (1991)". Box Office Mojo. May 21, 1991. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  2. ^ Blaise, Judd. "New Jack City (1991)". Allmovie. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  3. ^ "'New Jack City' at 30: Wesley Snipes on his dream to make 'The Black Godfather'". March 8, 2021.
  4. ^ Hart, Carl (2021). Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. Penguin Press. ISBN 9781101981641.
  5. ^ The film explored the Rodney King riots from a gang member's perspective. The Hollywood Reporter described this Discovery Channel production as "more frightening and sympathetic than any existing dramatic films on the subject".
  6. ^ Hooked on the American Dream-Vol.1: New Jack City Eats Its Young - Kindle edition by Barry Michael Cooper. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  7. ^ "New Jack Comeback". May 22, 2007.
  8. ^ Wilmington, Michael (March 8, 1991). "Plot Twists Litter Harlem Thriller 'New Jack City'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  9. ^ Roger Ebert. "New Jack City Archived September 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine". Chicago Sun-Times. May 1, 1991.
  10. ^ "New Jack City (1991), directed by Mario Van Peebles | Film review". Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  11. ^ "New Jack City - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.
  12. ^ "New Jack City". Metacritic. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  13. ^ "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on June 24, 2016. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  14. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 26, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  15. ^ "American album certifications – Soundtrack – New Jack City". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  16. ^ New Jack City Blu-ray, retrieved October 29, 2023
  17. ^ Teddy Riley tells the story of New Jack Swing. Red Bull Music Academy. May 25, 2017. Event occurs at 2:14. Retrieved June 29, 2022 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ "Cash Money Records - The Independent Years (1991-1998) at the Amoeblog". July 31, 2009. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  19. ^ Andy Kellman (June 29, 2004). "Tha Carter - Lil Wayne | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on April 30, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  20. ^ "Lil Wayne – D.O.A. Lyrics | Genius". Archived from the original on August 26, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  21. ^ "Young Nino, fuck a bitch in a peacoat – Faded Lyrics Meaning". Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  22. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 23, 2019). "'New Jack City' Reboot in Works With 'Snowfall's Malcolm M. Mays Writing". Deadline. Archived from the original on September 24, 2019. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  23. ^ II, C. Vernon Coleman IIC Vernon Coleman (September 7, 2022). "A New Jack City Live Stage Play Starring Big Daddy Kane, Treach and Others Is Coming in November". XXL Mag. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
  24. ^ "Je'Caryous Johnson's New Jack City Tickets | 13th January | Sarofim Hall | Sarofim Hall in Houston". Sarofim Hall. January 13, 2024. Retrieved January 30, 2024.
  25. ^ Je'Caryous Johnson's 'New Jack City' show set to arrive in Houston, retrieved January 30, 2024

External links