Filmmakers pull off a provocative, pulsating update on gangster pics with this action-laden epic about the rise and fall of an inner city crack dealer. Strongest element is the anger and disgust directed squarely at drug dealers.
Drawn from articles about real drug kingpins in California magazine and the Wall Street Journal, pic presents the fictional story [by Thomas Lee Wright] of Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes), who in 1986 foresees the potential of crack and by 1989 has built an empire around it. Term ‘New Jack’ was coined by journalist Barry Michael Cooper, pic’s co-writer, to describe modern urban street life.
After Nino takes over an apartment building, brutally ejecting the tenants, police detective Stone (played by the director) recruits undercover cops Scotty (rap artist Ice-T) and Peretti (Judd Nelson) to bring him in.
It’s clear from the start the filmmakers are out to blow the audiences away with pic’s jacked-up hyperactive pace. Camera style is restless and aggressive. Problems of narrative flow mar the second half, with events jumping around without setup. Nonetheless, pic, filmed on location mostly in Harlem and the Bronx for $8.5 million, has a seat-of-the-pants energy guaranteed to sweep its target audience along.