New Jack City (1991)

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Urban Vegan Kitchen
Manhattan, NYC

“Phenomenal food, made with love and so much Joy.  Chef Joy is not only a culinary artist, she is a true delight. Meet her once and you will be treated like family. This kind of warmth is rare in NYC and such a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.”
“I had the green curry with tofu and the green tea with coconut milk, the tea was creamy and sweet but not artificial. The curry was delicious and perfectly flavored. The second time I had basil fried rice and the snow white soup.”
“This is new favorite Vegan restaurant!”

They also run a SUPPORT + FEED CAMPAIGN & you can donate on their website.


Black Stories Series #2: 

“New Jack City” (1991), directed by Mario Van Peebles (who also cameos as one of the detectives ‘Stone’), is a crime drama that takes place in the 1990’s in a big city. This type of film was nothing new at the time (it came out the same decade as “Goodfellas,”Heat,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Casino,” and “King of New York” just to name a few. “New Jack City,” though, is an all-Black film, which allows for more nuance in the approach to crime and race to play out.

Prior to that, the biggest all Black films were part of a genre called blaxploitation films (“Dolemite” in 1975; “Foxy Brown” in 1974; “Hell Up In Harlem” in 1972 to name a few), so this is considered neo-blaxploitation.  As a “modern” blaxploitation film, the dialogue is explosive, memorable, and funny. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a muthafuckin’ court of law!

First, we meet Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes), as he struts from his car in a monochrome royal blue get up to meet his friend in the middle of a bridge, waiting to toss a person off of it. “New Jack City” overtly parallels “Scarface” (1983), and at one point in the film, Nino is actually watching the film in his lavish home, mocking the character (played by Al Pacino) for his demise in the end, but otherwise praising his lifestyle. He is a mastermind drug lord who converted a Harlem apartment building into his headquarters for the cocaine business, run by carefully plucked deputies and security, with a labyrinth of tweakers and his own room is opulent and palatial. Wesley Snipes plays this character with the perfect balance of menacing terror and striking charisma.

On the other side, Scotty (Ice-T) and Nick (a very-less-cool-than-the-guy-we-saw-in-“The Breakfast Club” Judd Nelson) are detectives expected to work together to take down this drug lord. Scotty is uniquely qualified for this role, being a recovered cocaine addict himself, understanding the drug world and recovery process and approaching the crackdown with a certain empathy and nuance. Nick is uniquely unqualified for this position, often on suspension for his irresponsible antics, showcases a desire for vengeance against drug dealers whom he openly hates, and frequently projects, “is this a black thing?” when he fails to understand something. It is without question that this dynamic in the film is commenting on racial workplace inequality, making the trope of the buddy cop movie where two very different characters who don’t agree on much are forced to work together, more interesting.

Chris Rock plays Pookie, a young and reckless coke addict who is rescued by Nick and sent through Narcotics Anonymous. This dynamic is important because Pookie is treated humanely by the police, receives the care he needs instead of incarceration or rejection, and in return, he wishes to help the cops in their investigation. Reluctantly, they allow him to be the undercover spy sent to infiltrate the drug den.

Van Peebles created this world with a lot of detail and care, evidence of a well-researched project. The language used feels authentic and he films on location, But also, with a myriad of Black characters and voices, “New Jack City” avoids another trap that was common in crime dramas, where the only person of color in the film is also the villain, brought to justice by the white hero (see: “Rocky,” “Live and Let Die,” “Alien,” “Candyman,” and “Training Day” to name a few). More than anything, it is important to get movies made by Black filmmakers with all Black cast to be viewed by wide audiences to ensure that the Black community is portrayed in the media with a range of moralities, personalities, lifestyles and opinions.

“New Jack City” is a Shakespearean drama, where the conflict revolves around the rise and fall of nefarious characters, and the heroes must wrestle with their inner demons to take them down. Strung together with quick one-liners, disguises, cloak-and-dagger tricks and comic relief. It’s a fun film with a whole lot of 90’s flare – velour jumpsuits, cashmere berets and larger than life gold chains. Oh, and Flava Flav! Bravo!


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