The crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s hit the streets of Black communities with a vengeance, and in New Jack City, we see not just the victims of addiction, but those who exploited their communities and profited from the death and destruction around them.
We meet the Cash Money Brothers (CMB), run by crack kingpin Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) and his brother Gee Money (Allen Payne). Together with Nino’s girlfriend, Selina (Michael Michele), her Harvard-educated cousin, Kareem, hitwoman Keisha, and a few other friends, they are rising fast in the Harlem drug game and feel untouchable.
Undercover detective Scotty Appleton (Ice-T) and his new partner, Nick Peretti (Jude Nelson) are determined to bring down Nino and his crew but when this proves easier said than done, they recruit a junkie named Pookie (Chris Rock) to infiltrate the apartment building that the CMB have converted into a crackhouse by masquerading as a worker.
Pookie is fresh out of rehab but can’t resist the lure of his work environment and becomes addicted to crack, blowing his cover, causing Gee Money to destroy the building and attempt to detroy the detectives, via explosives wired to Pookie’s corpse.
While Scotty decides to infiltrate CMB himself, focused on getting evidence and avoiding detection, he also has to be wary of Nino’s many enemies, including Don Ameteo, the Italian mobster whom CMB owes “back taxes”, and a gun-toting street preacher who’s already attempted to assassinate Nino once before.
As his stint undercover progresses, Scotty learns just how heartless Nino is, has always been, and taking him down becomes a personal vendetta. Ultimately, though, Nino’s downfall are his ego and lack of loyalty. With each person that he throws under the bus or in front of a bullet to save himself, the less there are to stand beside him. New Jack City is a fast-paced crime drama that captures your attention from start to finish and is just as entertaining to watch almost 30 years later.
I give this one 4.5 stars.