Today! Because money talks, and bullshit runs a marathon –
New Jack City (1991)
Directed by Mario Van Peebles
Starring Wesley Snipes (x2), Ice-T, Chris Rock (x2), Mario Van Peebles, Judd Nelson, Bill Nunn (x2), Allen Payne, Bill Cobbs, Michael Michele, Russell Wong, Vanessa Williams, Tracy Camilla Johns, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, John Aprea, Flava Flav, Fab 5 Freddy
Like every Catholic school attending twelve-year-old white kid in small town America, I was big into Mario Van Peebles inner city drug dealing crime epic circa the fall of 1991 (when it hit HBO). Another triumph of cable television in my youth! Look, I don’t have a good explanation why I watched New Jack City as much as I did in my formative years. It’s a movie that manages to effectively glamorize the super violent crime lord lifestyle while also digging into the gritty, crushing reality of addiction at the same time. And sure, it was fun that, like, Ice-T and Judd Nelson’s characters are partners and hate each other, and Chris Rock is way strung out as crackhead Pookie, but the only thing I can come up with for sure as a draw when I was a kid was that Wesley Snipes was the coolest motherfucker ever.
He should’ve won an Oscar for playing kingpin Nino Brown. Hell, he should’ve won a Nobel Prize, had such a category existed. The Nobel Prize for Sheer Badassery goes to Wesley Snipes in New Jack City – now that would’ve been some C-SPAN ceremony right there. His performance is so epic, so towering that the rest of the characters fade into the distant background whenever he’s on screen. And for a genre crime picture of the era, it really manages to tell a complete, engaging story, only occasionally reveling in the attitude and style of the film at the expense of the narrative. Plus, it has a great early ’90s rap/hip hop soundtrack, featuring Ice-T, Queen Latifah, Johnny Gill, Keith Sweat, and Color Me Badd. Solid!
But did Wesley Snipes win an Oscar for this film, never mind that Nobel Prize? No! Completely denied! Sure, the movie was released in March – not exactly the stomping grounds for award-seeking cinema – but come on, it was so completely forgotten come nomination time that Snipes was overlooked for the likes of Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides? Bah! If I’m not in the position to bestow Nobel level accolades, the least I can do is offer up Best Genesis Quotations in a Gangland Epic for Nino’s weighty query, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Dude!
Three new Two-Timers on the list today – future Blade himself Snipes, following his above-the-rim greatness in #343’s White Men Can’t Jump, Chris Rock’s heavy dramatic turn here following his mosquito voicework in #385’s Bee Movie, and less heralded character great Bill Nunn, who would turn up about a decade later in #381’s Spider-Man.
Coming tomorrow! I won’t let you down, Mr. President –