New Jack City (1991)

R | 100 mins | Drama | 8 March 1991

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HISTORY

The following title card appears at the end of the film: “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.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Thomas Lee Wright and Barry Michael Cooper wrote the role of “Nino Brown” with Wesley Snipes in mind.
       The start of principal photography was initially slated for Mar 1990, as noted in the 3 Feb 1990 Screen International, but was pushed to 16 Apr 1990, according to the 1 May 1990 HR production chart. The shooting schedule was eight weeks, and the budget was estimated to be $8.5 million. Filming took place primarily in the Harlem and Bronx neighborhoods of New York City, as noted in the 28 Jan 1991 DV review.
       The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on 26 Jan 1991. An 8 Mar 1991 theatrical release followed on 862 screens. Opening weekend ticket sales brought in an impressive $7 million. However, violence marred screenings in New York City; Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA; Sayreville, NJ; Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL; and Las Vegas, NV. Shootings took place in Detroit and Chicago, where a passerby was wounded, and in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, where a nineteen-year-old was fatally shot outside a theater, as noted in an 18 Mar 1991 Var news item. A teenager was also wounded in a drive-by shooting outside San Francisco’s New Mission Theater. In Los Angeles, a riot broke out on opening ... More Less

The following title card appears at the end of the film: “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.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Thomas Lee Wright and Barry Michael Cooper wrote the role of “Nino Brown” with Wesley Snipes in mind.
       The start of principal photography was initially slated for Mar 1990, as noted in the 3 Feb 1990 Screen International, but was pushed to 16 Apr 1990, according to the 1 May 1990 HR production chart. The shooting schedule was eight weeks, and the budget was estimated to be $8.5 million. Filming took place primarily in the Harlem and Bronx neighborhoods of New York City, as noted in the 28 Jan 1991 DV review.
       The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on 26 Jan 1991. An 8 Mar 1991 theatrical release followed on 862 screens. Opening weekend ticket sales brought in an impressive $7 million. However, violence marred screenings in New York City; Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA; Sayreville, NJ; Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL; and Las Vegas, NV. Shootings took place in Detroit and Chicago, where a passerby was wounded, and in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, where a nineteen-year-old was fatally shot outside a theater, as noted in an 18 Mar 1991 Var news item. A teenager was also wounded in a drive-by shooting outside San Francisco’s New Mission Theater. In Los Angeles, a riot broke out on opening night at the Mann Village Theatre in Westwood. The 10 Mar 1991 LAT stated that 600-800 moviegoers, largely African American youths, were turned away from the Mann Village Theatre due to sold-out screenings. Riots and looting ensued, and the crowd grew to as many as 1,500 people. It took 100-150 police to bring an end to the melee. Some tied the violence to racial tensions over the 3 Mar 1991 police assault of Los Angeles resident Rodney King that had been televised earlier that week. Future film director Ava DuVernay, who was a student at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) at the time, was quoted as saying that the Mann Village Theatre’s decision to pull New Jack City after the incident was “because they don’t want black people in Westwood.” DuVernay compared it to a similar incident at the Mann Village Theatre that occurred on opening night of Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues (1990, see entry).
       Warner Bros. and Mario Van Peebles responded to the violence by defending the film’s “antidrug, antiviolence message,” as stated in a 13 Mar 1991 NYT article, and arguing that the violence reflected “deep-rooted societal problems,” as noted in a 25 Jul 1991 HR “Hollywood Report” column. In a letter to his father, filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, published in the 31 Mar 1991 Los Angeles Daily Breeze, Mario Van Peebles noted the injustice of New Jack City being pulled from ten theaters despite finishing second at the box office after two weeks in release. However, he pointed out that sixty theaters had added screenings. Theaters that pulled the film included the Mann Village Theatre and San Francisco’s New Mission Theater, as noted in a 15 Mar 1991 DV item. A 21 Mar 1991 LAT brief reported that the district attorney of Houston, TX, was asked by black ministers to ban the film until Warner Bros. had researched the effect it was having on “urban black youth.” The film was also protested by the Coalition Against Media Racism in America (CAMRA) for perpetuating black stereotypes, as stated in a 2 Jul 1991 HR brief.
       An 18 Mar 1991 HR news brief noted that Warner Bros. offered to help pay for added security at theaters, and devised a new promotional campaign that highlighted the film’s anti-drug message and critical acclaim. Producers Doug McHenry and George Jackson also made a statement discouraging “young street thugs” from attending screenings.
       The home video version was released with an anti-drug public service announcement from Mario Van Peebles, according to a 5 Aug 1991 LAT, in which Van Peebles paraphrased one of “Nick Peretti’s” lines from the film by saying, “Whether you live in Harlem, whether you live in Beverly Hills, the drug epidemic, it’s not a black thing. It’s not a white thing. It’s a death thing. And death doesn’t care what color you are.”
       New Jack City ultimately grossed $47.6 million, as noted in the 9 Feb 1992 Orange County Register. Critical reception was mixed. Some reviews, including the 28 Jan 1991 HR and 8 Mar 1991 NYT, criticized the formulaic script, but consistent praise went to Wesley Snipes’s performance. Snipes won the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Image Award for “Outstanding Movie Actor,” as noted in a 16 Jan 1992 Los Angeles Sentinel item.
       A 15 Mar 1991 HR “Hollywood Report” column noted that the soundtrack album was the first under Irving Azoff’s new company, Giant Records, whose parent company was Time Warner. According to a 19 Apr 1991 HR brief, the soundtrack had reached number twelve on the Billboard pop albums chart, and number one on the R&B albums chart, making it the first soundtrack album to top the R&B chart since 1984’s The Woman in Red (see entry).
       Aspiring actor and writer Kurt Anthony sued Wesley Snipes, producers George Jackson and Doug McHenry, the Gersh Agency, and Warner Bros. for $40 million, alleging that plot elements and characters in New Jack City were stolen from his script, Innocent Blood. The outcome of the lawsuit has not been determined as of the writing of this Note.
       New Jack City marked Mario Van Peebles feature film directorial debut.
       End credits include the following statements: “‘Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song’ clip provided courtesy of Melvin Van Peebles and Yeah, Inc.; ‘Scarface’ clip provided courtesy of MCA/Universal”; “Special Thanks To: The New York City Mayor’s Office for Film, Television, Theatre and Broadcasting; New York State Supreme Court, Stephen Danow, Esq.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
[Los Angeles, CA] Daily Breeze
31 Mar 1991
Section D, p. 4.
Back Stage
27 Apr 1990.
---
Daily Variety
28 Jan 1991.
---
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1991
p. 47.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Mar 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1991
p. 1, 47.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 1991
p. 3, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 1991.
---
Los Angeles Sentinel
16 Jan 1992
Section A, p. 3, 16.
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1991
p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
10 Mar 1991
Section A, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
12 Mar 1991.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 1991
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jun 1991.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Aug 1991
Calendar, p. 2.
New York Times
8 Mar 1991
p. 15.
New York Times
13 Mar 1991
Section A, p. 16.
Orange County Register
9 Feb 1992
Section H, p. 5.
Screen International
3 Feb 1990.
---
Variety
4 Feb 1991
pp. 89-90.
Variety
18 Mar 1991.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. presents
A Jackson/McHenry production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit
Addl 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl cam op
Steadicam® op
Rigging gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Underwater photog
Video playback
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
Stills photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Addl ed
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Key set dresser
Chargeman scenic artist
Const coord
Key set builder
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward supv
Asst ward
Asst to cost des
Asst to cost des
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus supv
Supv mus ed
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Cable person
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Foley
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
ADR mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff coord
Titles des
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Asst makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Ice T's hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Prod supv
Scr supv
Helicopter pilot
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Prod assoc
Asst to prods
Asst to prods
Prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
Prod auditor
Asst prod auditor
Prod office secy
Asst to Mr. Van Peebles
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Parking coord
Loc coord
Asst loc coord
Los Angeles casting
Los Angeles casting
Casting asst
Teamster capt
Teamster co-capt
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme),” written by Ice T, produced by D. J. Aladdin and Ice T, performed by Ice T, courtesy of Sire Records Company
“New Jack City,” written by Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall, and Bernard Belle, produced by Teddy Riley, performed by Guy, courtesy of MCA Records
“(There You Go) Telling Me No Again,” written and produced by Keith Sweat and Bobby Wooten, performed by Keith Sweat, courtesy of Elektra Entertainment
+
SONGS
“New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme),” written by Ice T, produced by D. J. Aladdin and Ice T, performed by Ice T, courtesy of Sire Records Company
“New Jack City,” written by Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall, and Bernard Belle, produced by Teddy Riley, performed by Guy, courtesy of MCA Records
“(There You Go) Telling Me No Again,” written and produced by Keith Sweat and Bobby Wooten, performed by Keith Sweat, courtesy of Elektra Entertainment
“I’m Still Waiting,” written by H. Randall Davis, produced by Randy Ran, performed by Johnny Gill, courtesy of Motown Record Company L. P.
“I’m Dreamin’,” written and produced by Stanley Brown, performed by Christopher Williams, courtesy of Geffen Records
“For The Love Of Money,” written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Anthony Jackson, performed by Troop and Levert, rap by Queen Latifah
“Living For The City,” written by Stevie Wonder, performed by Troop and Levert, rap by Queen Latifah, Troop and Levert appear courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., Queen Latifah appears courtesy of Tommy Boy Records
“I Wanna Sex You Up,” written and produced by Dr. Freeze, performed by Color Me Badd, courtesy of Giant Records
“In The Dust,” written by M. Ross, C. Wong Wong, R. Terry, M. McCray, and L. Campbell, performed by 2 Live Crew, courtesy of Luke Records/Atlantic Recording Corp.
“Get It Together (Black Is A Force),” written by Amery Ware, Joseph Brim, and Al B. Sure!, produced by Al B. Sure!, performed by F. S. Effect, courtesy of Giant Records
“Lyrics 2 The Rhythm,” written by T. Marie, T. Armstrong, R. Smith, T. Hutchinson, and J. Saddler, produced by Grandmaster Flash, performed by Essence, courtesy of Giant Records
“Facts Of Life,” written by D. Madden, C. McIntosh, T. Jacobs, and K. Nicholas, produced by Danny Madden and Carl McIntosh, performed by Danny Madden, courtesy of Eternal Records/WEA Records Ltd., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“The Show,” written by Douglas Davis and Ricky Walters, performed by Doug E. Fresh and The Get Fresh Crew, courtesy of Danya Records Ltd.
“The Redhead One,” written by Redhead Kingpin, performed by Redhead Kingpin and The F. B. I., courtesy of Virgin Records America, Inc.
“Straight Outta Compton,” written by M. C. Ren, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and Dr. Dre, performed by N. W. A., courtesy of Priority Records, Inc./Ruthless Records.
+
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 March 1991
Premiere Information:
Sundance Film Festival screening: 26 January 1991
Los Angeles and New York openings: 8 March 1991
Production Date:
began 16 April 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
21 June 1991
Copyright Number:
PA526655
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30929
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1986 New York City, unemployment rates have led to an increasingly large class divide. Drugs and gang violence are destroying African-American neighborhoods, and the birth rate of drug-addicted babies is on the rise. Nino Brown heads the “Cash Money Brothers” gang with his best friend, “Gee Money,” and stuttering heavy, “Duh Duh Duh Man.” In cahoots with Italian mafia members Don Armeteo and Frankie Needles, the Cash Money Brothers run a burgeoning cocaine empire. One day, Gee Money reveals he has been dealing “crack” cocaine on the side. He raves about the potent drug and suggests the Cash Money Brothers begin dealing in it. Nino is initially reluctant to change his inventory, but he soon calls a meeting in the backroom of the Spotlite nightclub. There, Nino’s girl friend, Selina, introduces him to her cousin, Kareem Akbar, an accountant who wishes to leave his white-collar job for a more lucrative position. Nino hires Kareem on the spot and announces his new plan: to set up headquarters at the Carter Apartments, where they will produce crack cocaine and sell it inside the building instead of on street corners. He puts Duh Duh Duh Man and gun moll Keisha in charge of security, and instructs Kareem to set up a computerized accounting system. Soon, the Cash Money Brothers take over the Carter Apartments building by force, leading the landlord onto the street naked, and shooting “Fat Smitty,” the local drug dealer, in front of a crowd. Residents are intimidated into compliance, and Nino’s new headquarters is established. Three years later, the New York City police commissioner is under pressure from the governor and mayor to end the crack cocaine ... +


In 1986 New York City, unemployment rates have led to an increasingly large class divide. Drugs and gang violence are destroying African-American neighborhoods, and the birth rate of drug-addicted babies is on the rise. Nino Brown heads the “Cash Money Brothers” gang with his best friend, “Gee Money,” and stuttering heavy, “Duh Duh Duh Man.” In cahoots with Italian mafia members Don Armeteo and Frankie Needles, the Cash Money Brothers run a burgeoning cocaine empire. One day, Gee Money reveals he has been dealing “crack” cocaine on the side. He raves about the potent drug and suggests the Cash Money Brothers begin dealing in it. Nino is initially reluctant to change his inventory, but he soon calls a meeting in the backroom of the Spotlite nightclub. There, Nino’s girl friend, Selina, introduces him to her cousin, Kareem Akbar, an accountant who wishes to leave his white-collar job for a more lucrative position. Nino hires Kareem on the spot and announces his new plan: to set up headquarters at the Carter Apartments, where they will produce crack cocaine and sell it inside the building instead of on street corners. He puts Duh Duh Duh Man and gun moll Keisha in charge of security, and instructs Kareem to set up a computerized accounting system. Soon, the Cash Money Brothers take over the Carter Apartments building by force, leading the landlord onto the street naked, and shooting “Fat Smitty,” the local drug dealer, in front of a crowd. Residents are intimidated into compliance, and Nino’s new headquarters is established. Three years later, the New York City police commissioner is under pressure from the governor and mayor to end the crack cocaine epidemic. Police detective Stone is put in charge of the investigation, and despite the police commissioner’s reluctance, he demands that undercover policemen Scotty Appleton and Nick Peretti be assigned to his team. Appleton, an African American who is familiar with the drug scene, is currently suspended from the force, and Peretti, a known hothead, almost killed his partner in a chase; however, Stone believes they are the only men for the job. Appleton initially dislikes Peretti, assuming that because he is white, he cannot truly care about the African-American community. Stone argues that Peretti is the only person crazy enough to team with Appleton. Meanwhile, Nino Brown tells Italian mobster Frankie Needles that the Cash Money Brothers will no longer pay off Don Armeteo. Gee Money questions the decision, but Nino will not be swayed. On Thanksgiving, Appleton and Peretti spy on the Cash Money Brothers as they hand out turkey dinners on the street. Appleton recognizes a crack addict named “Pookie,” whom he shot in a chase years ago, as he takes a plate of food. Nino, who used to employ Pookie as a drug dealer, tells him that if he cleans up, he could go to work for the Cash Money Brothers. Appleton follows Pookie to an abandoned building. Pookie recognizes him and tries to run, but Appleton drags him to a rehabilitation facility. Sometime later, with Appleton’s help, Pookie has become sober. He begs Appleton for a job, and offers to help bring down Nino Brown’s empire. Despite Appleton’s misgivings, Pookie gets hired as a lookout for the Cash Money Brothers, and quickly ascends the ranks. He is assigned to work in the “drugstore,” where vials of crack are prepared for selling. He wears a wiretap and a belt with a hidden surveillance camera so that Appleton and Peretti’s team can see inside the headquarters. One day, Pookie is overcome by temptation and steals a vial of crack. His relapse leads to a manic episode in the drugstore. Gee Money discovers his wiretap and surveillance camera, and orders the Carter Apartments shut down. Police swarm the building as the gangsters clear their computers and set fire to files. Appleton and Peretti find a dead Pookie with a bomb strapped to him. Just in time, Peretti disables the bomb. Meanwhile, Nino is at home having sex with Gee Money’s girl friend, Uniqua. Gee Money calls to tell him the headquarters were infiltrated, and Nino calls an emergency meeting in which he loses his temper. He blames Gee Money’s negligence for losing their $1 million per-week business, and stabs his hand. Gee Money begins smoking crack and makes secret plans to oust Nino. At Pookie’s funeral, Appleton laments that he lost a friend. Peretti reveals he used to be a drug addict himself, and promises Appleton they are in the war against Nino Brown together. The partners coerce Frankie Needles into cutting a side deal with Gee Money behind Nino’s back. Appleton infiltrates the Cash Money Brothers, posing as a drug dealer with a cheap source of crack. Nino befriends him, and tells a story about his gang initiation, when he took angel dust and killed a random woman on the street. Appleton gains Nino’s confidence when he saves him from an attempted shooting by a disgruntled old man who blames Nino for destroying the neighborhood. He also exposes Gee Money’s secret dealings with Frankie Needles. Later, Appleton attends a wedding hosted by Nino. Meanwhile, Peretti breaks into the Spotlite nightclub and steals computer disks containing the Cash Money Brothers’ financial records. As the wedding comes to an end, mafia members disguised as caterers draw guns on Nino and his crew. In the ensuing shootout, Nino uses a young girl as a human shield, and Keisha is shot dead. Appleton nearly shoots Nino in the fray, but stops himself. Nino retaliates against Don Armeteo by killing him and several of his men in a drive-by shooting. When Appleton meets Nino and his crew in a warehouse to conduct a drug deal, Kareem finally recognizes him as the undercover cop who shot Pookie years before, and calls out that Appleton is a policeman. Appleton flees, and police flood the building. Nino and Gee Money escape. Appleton shoots Duh Duh Duh Man to save Peretti, and Peretti returns the favor when Duh Duh Duh Man fumbles for his weapon. That night, Nino accuses Gee Money of betraying him. Gee Money begs Nino to salvage their friendship, but Nino shoots him. Appleton and Peretti break into Nino’s apartment and find him watching Scarface on television. Holding Nino at gunpoint, Appleton reveals that the woman Nino killed as part of his gang initiation was Appleton’s mother. Peretti stops his partner from killing Nino. Selina, Nino’s ex-girl friend, agrees to testify against him. However, when Nino testifies in court that he was coerced into taking part in the Cash Money Brothers, and fingers Kareem Akbar as the real leader of the operation, he is given a reduced sentence of one year in prison. As Nino emerges triumphant from the courtroom, the disgruntled old man who tried to kill him appears again. This time, the man shoots Nino dead. Satisfied that justice has been served, Appleton and Peretti leave the courthouse. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.