New Jack City

Mario Van Peebles' New Jack City, a gangster-thriller about crack cocaine trade in Harlem, is a shallow moralistic melodrama with kinky violence.

A cynical director, Van Peebles has style to burn, but his work is disappointingly flashy and senseless. The film's supposedly anti-drug message was clouded by an overblown melodrama, in which a white power structure doesn't care about poor blacks. A New York police detective hires two maverick ex-cops (Ice T. and Judd Nelson) to bring down druglord Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes).

Van Peebles flaunts a baroque style and rapid cutting, odd camera angles and, brashness that superficially recalls Spike Lee, without the latter's substance. New Jack City was basically an offshoot of Brian De Palma's Scarface (which inspired Snipes' character), blaxploitation like Superfly, and black-and-white cop films that became popular after Lethal Weapon.

The film's language is atrocious. When Nino orders a rival killed, his gunman assures him that, “He gonna be hanging with Elvis.” Using sadism to generate excitement, lurid action is accompanied with loud rap music.