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Film / New Jack City

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"Idolater! Your soul is required in Hell!"
An old man, from the final scene of the film.

New Jack City is a 1991 neo-noir crime thriller film starring Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Judd Nelson and Chris Rock. It also co-starred and was directed by Mario Van Peebles.

Snipes plays Nino Brown, a rising crime lord and drug dealer in New York City, who takes control of an apartment complex and capitalizes on the crack epidemic with his brutal gang, the Cash Money Brothers (CMB). But he is opposed by undercover cop Scotty (Ice-T), whose mother Nino killed back in the day. Now Scotty vows to stop Nino and the deadly CMB at all costs.

Rumors of a straight-to-video sequel have popped up, but has not been officially confirmed as of yet. However, starting in Fall 2022, a staged version of the movie called New Jack City: Live on Stage was done by Je'Caryous Johnson. It was released to good reviews and continued to be performed until June 2024. Additionally, this movie, Sugar Hill 1993, and Above the Rim, all written by the same screenwriter, has been dubbed the Harlem Trilogy, sharing the same setting of Harlem, New York.

Not to be confused with an episode of Father Ted.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The '80s: Where the first act is set before leaving it in The '90s.
  • Accuse the Witness: Nino accuses one of his lieutenants of being the real head of the Cash Money Brothers and it works, despite every piece of evidence and testimony that proves otherwise.
  • All for Nothing: Zig-zagged. Scotty is ultimately dissuaded from killing Nino and convinced to let the system do its job... only for Nino to be practically acquitted, making it seem like this trope... but then the old man commits a Vigilante Execution anyway.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: When Nino kills Gee Money for inadvertently leading Scotty and the cops right to him, it's clear he takes no pleasure doing so.
  • Arc Words: "Am I my brother's keeper?"
  • Asshole Victim: Mafia boss Don Armeteo and all his men after the wedding shootout. Also Nino himself in the end.
  • Badass Boast: Nino's iconic "Sit your five dollar ass down before I make change!"
  • Bad Boss: Nino has no problem with betraying, physically assaulting, or even killing the people who work for him. During the trial sequence, he avoids more severe charges by perjuring himself and claiming that Kareem was the true mastermind behind the operation.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: One of the later examples. The opening scene plays snippets from various news reports that mention some of the many problems facing the city in The '80s, such as rising economic inequality, loss of jobs, and an increase in violent gang activity. It's these precise conditions that allow Nino's scheme and the broader crack epidemic to happen in the first place.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nino is gunned down and the CMB is completely eradicated, but the old man who shot him is promptly arrested and presumably jailed for the rest of his life. And even though the city's most notorious crack manufacturer is now dead, it's only a matter of time before someone else will rise and conquer.
  • Blatant Lies: Pretty much all of Nino's claims in court, such as when he claimed Kareem Akbar, "the educated brother from the bank" whom he stabbed in the hand and nearly strangled earlier, was the real head of the CMB. And that he was forced to sell drugs because his mother would be killed if he didn't.
  • Bookends: The opening shot slowly zooms in on the famous Manhattan skyline in New York, and ends with credits scrolling up while the camera slowly pulls away from the city. Both shots also have the movie's Theme Song playing. It also begins and ends with someone falling to their deaths, though it's Nino getting shot by the old veteran.
  • Bros Before Hoes: Nino makes with Gee Money's mistress, Uniqua when she offers herself to him. When Gee Money later voices his anger at Nino for taking everything for himself, Nino dismisses the girl as a skank and says that Gee means infinitely more to him.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Nino uses a little girl as a meatshield when the Mafia tries to assassinate him at a party.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Subverted; Nino had no idea the middle-aged woman he killed was Scotty's mom, but he absolutely remembers the actual incident and recounts it to Scotty, who is undercover at the time, as it was the first time he killed someone — he was told to kill a random person to prove his loyalty to his new gang. We don't actually find out until the very end of the movie that Scotty was after Nino for this, and Nino doesn't deny remembering the incident because Scotty is beating the crap out of him as he tells him this.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The old man no one took seriously at first ends up being Nino Brown's killer in the final scene.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Gee Money and the Duh Duh Man CLEARLY made sure Pookie’s last few moments of his life were horrible and excruciating as possible, considering how he was beaten to a pulp, throat slashed, shot and for good measure had his neck completely TWISTED AROUND like a toy doll. That’s not even getting into the fact that his entire body would have been blown up if Scotty and Peretti didn’t defuse the bomb.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: During the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that Scotty issues to Nino at the end, Nino does manage to get one punch in.
  • Da Chief: Police Commissioner Fred R. Price portrayed by Thalmus Rasulala, who shows trepidation over Stone's desire to recruit a pair of Cowboy Cops in Scotty and Peretti in the NYPD's war against Nino.
  • Dark Action Girl: Keisha fits this to a T, having a gun on hand to murder Rasta Brown and intimidate various people such as Gigantor and 2 sexist guys from Connecticut in an early script for the movie.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: As done by The Duh-Duh-Duh Man as he dies.
  • Destroy the Evidence: After exposing Pookie as a police informant, he orders the CMB to burn down all the paperwork and take the floppy disks with the financial records before shutting down the Carter.
  • Dirty Coward: Nino attempts to use a little girl as a meat shield during a shootout. Thankfully, she survives unharmed.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted; Nino was likely already dead from the gunshot wound to the chest, but then falling down several flights of stairs certainly didn't help.
  • Disposable Love Interest: Subverted. Not exactly a fiancé nor boyfriend, but Uniqua is supposed to be Gee Money's fling, but she ends up sleeping with Nino instead.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Nino killed a young man, poured gasoline on him, and set him on fire because he owed him $5.
  • Domestic Abuser: Nino is both verbally and physically abusive to Selina, and ends up tossing her against a desk and pouring champagne on her after she calls him a murderer.
    Nino: Cancel that bitch. I'll buy another one.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Inverted. Nino dresses up as the cop whose throat was cut by him during the shootout between the CMB and the cops to lure Park into a false sense of security and then stab him to death when checking his "dead body".
  • Driven to Villainy: The old man shoots Nino after the latter gets off with a light sentence.
  • Drugs Are Bad: And the drug trade is even worse, full of endless violence, resentment, and backstabbing. The ENTIRE movie centers around this trope.
  • Dumb Muscle: The Duh-Duh-Duh Man. Averted in that he's not actually "dumb" per se, he's just sort of viewed as such on account of his heavy stuttering and how he mainly serves as Nino's personal enforcer.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: When Keisha is killed at the wedding shootout, Nino is clearly distraught. He also sees Gee Money as a brother and is downright heartbroken when he executes Gee Money for betraying him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Gee Money is disgusted at Nino for making Selina's infertility sound like a joke.
    • Selina's High-Heel–Face Turn began after she saw Nino use a child as a human shield.
    • Both Keisha and Duh-Duh Man try to stop Nino from strangling Kareem Akbar. They are both also seen assisting Kareem out of the room after the meeting.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Frankie Needles' New Year's gift to Nino is a statue of him with a white lynch rope around his neck, causing the CMB to cut his ponytail off and him and his mob bodyguards to leave.
  • Evil Overlooker: The three heroic police officers are downright minuscule compared to the sinister-looking Nino Brown looming over them in a badass pose.
  • Evil Pays Better: Kareem's reason for leaving his computer programming job at the bank to be part of Nino's gang and future crack operation.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Nino can turn on the charm when it suits him, but at the end of the day he's still a selfish, misogynistic, violence-prone bastard who doesn't care how many lives he destroys.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During the Villain Opening Scene of the film, Nino and Duh-Duh-Duh Man are about to throw a corrupt businessman over a bridge for a deal gone bad. Nino mentions that he'll see him and doesn't wanna to be him. This is how he meets his end, though for a different reason.
    • Nino is shown watching Scarface multiple times, and has clearly taken all the wrong lessons from it, since it's implied that he admires Tony Montana and wants to emulate him. Like Tony, Nino meets his end when he's gunned down and takes a nasty fall. Moreover, Nino kills his best friend like Tony did.
  • Freudian Excuse: Nino claims that he was forced to sell drugs because his mother would be killed if he didn't.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: After the failed attempts to expose him, Nino becomes so paranoid, he blames his own second in command and best friend and kills him.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Selina gives up the trade and leaves Nino after she witnesses Nino using a young girl to protect himself.invoked
  • Hero Antagonist: The narrative is mostly told from Nino's perspective, making Scotty the antagonistic force.
  • Heroic BSoD: Scotty has one after Pookie dies.
  • Hi, Mom!: Nino Brown, who's just been given a year for drug trafficking and several murders in exchange for his co-operation with the authorities, smugly uses the phrase in front of the cameras while he's boasting to the press that he thinks the American justice system is the finest in the world.
  • I Knew There Was Something About You: Kareem immediately figures out that Scotty Appleton is a cop due to the way he arrested Pookie at the beginning of the film.
    Kareem: Yo, I knew I knew Washington. Yo, he's 5-0.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: Nino Brown relates a tale from his youth; his gang initiation into the LA Boys involved killing someone, but it couldn't be a rival gang member. He ends up shooting a schoolteacher on the street in broad daylight. Unfortunately for Nino, the person he relates this tale to is undercover cop Scotty, the schoolteacher's son.
  • Impaled Palm: Nino stabs Kareem in the hand with a cane sword and begins to strangle him with a chain.
    I never liked you anyway! Pretty motherfucker!
  • Implied Death Threat: During a tense meeting of the CMB, Nino tells Gee Money to "sit your five-dollar ass down before I make change".
  • It Will Never Catch On: A discussed In-Universe example. When Gee Money shows the new crack cocaine to Nino, note  he initially dismisses it since he believes people usually go for the cocaine, calling it "this shit that'll change the world". After Gee mentions the benefits, such as coming off like the Mob and how women come to him like bees to honey, Nino decides to think about it a bit.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Right after Scotty agrees to join the team, apropos of nothing, Peretti shoots a smiley-face in the wall of Scotty's apartment.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted. Nino manages to get off with a light sentence, but is shot moments later by the old man whose house he had stolen.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Nino gets his pretty fast — he doesn't even make it out of the courthouse.
  • Karmic Death: Nino gets shot to death, just like he shot many innocent people, and by one of the many people whose lives he ruined.
  • Kick the Dog: The CMB forcing the residents of the apartment out of their homes so they could use it as their base of operations.
  • Large Ham: Pookie, Nino, and Scotty all qualify.
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe, Nino is a noted fan of Scarface, watching Tony Montana's shootout at the end of the movie multiple times and quoting the "The world is yours" line as an inspirational motto. Also doubles as Foreshadowing, as neither Tony nor Nino get to ride off into the sunset at the end.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal:
    • Implied to be the motivation behind Gee Money's betrayal of Nino. They were supposed to be partners but the latter treated the former more like a sidekick, taking everything for himself.
    • This is the main motivation behind Selina agreeing to testify against Nino at the end.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Uniqua, Gee Money's mistress who eventually falls for Nino. She is seen dancing sensually with a red bikini/lingerie and later sleeps with Nino.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: Invoked by Nino Brown and his Cash Money Brothers drug crew, who make a token effort to provide relief to the poor in the form of a field kitchen to win the trust of the people. In reality, they ruthlessly took over one of the projects to set up their drug labs by forcing out all the previous residents and just make things worse by peddling their product to the unfortunate.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Pookie ends up relapsing into crack while undercover, which results in Gee Money finding out he's wired.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When Scotty finally gets his hands on Nino, he beats the shit out of him in broad daylight for several minutes without Nino putting up much of a fight.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: Nino is ultimately killed by a seemingly random old man who has been railing against Nino's drug operations throughout the entire movie.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • After Pookie's death, Peretti claims that he saw a lot of himself in the youth, admitting that he too was a drug addict when he was younger.
      Peretti: Do you remember when you said I didn't care? When what the hell was I doing at Pookie's funeral anyway? Remember? I used to be Pookie.
      Scotty: How the hell you used to be Pookie?
      Peretti: I was poor white trash Pookie.
    • Nino later goes on a tirade in court pointing out the complicity of society at large in the drug trade:
      Nino: I'm not guilty. You're the one that's guilty. The lawmakers, the politicians, the Colombian drug lords, all you who lobby against making drugs legal. Just like you did with alcohol during the prohibition. You're the one who's guilty. I mean, come on, let's kick the ballistics here. Ain't no Uzis made in Harlem. Not one of us in here owns a poppy field. This thing is bigger than Nino Brown. This is big business. This is the American way.
  • Nothing Personal:
    • When undercover cop Scotty Appleton and drug kingpin Nino Brown are hanging out one night, Nino confesses that he killed an innocent schoolteacher as part of an initiation into the LA Boys gang. Scotty asked Nino if the killing was business or personal. Nino made it clear that all his killings are business, never personal. The schoolteacher was Scotty's mother, and Scotty nearly kills Nino during the climax, making it clear that killing his mother was personal.
    • This is averted hard when Nino kills Gee Money for ratting the CMB out to the cops. Unlike every other atrocity he committed in the film with a straight face, it's obvious Nino was heartbroken by the betrayal, and hated the fact he had to kill Gee Money over it.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: That is definitely not Chris Rock on the bicycle during the bike chase early on.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Benny "Pookie" Robinson.
  • Pet the Dog: Nino hooks up Pookie with a big amount of turkey and even offers him a job, which he takes later in the movie.
  • Railing Kill: Nino, after taking a direct shot to the heart, slumps over the balcony from about the 4th or 5th story of a courthouse.
  • Red Shirt: Pookie is a somewhat literal example. The moment he's exposed at an informant, he's wearing a red button-up shirt.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Pookie dies just after his cover is blown, with his corpse almost destroyed had Paretti not disarmed the bomb.
  • Shirtless Scene: Nino and Gee Money are often seen shirtless compared to the rest of the gang members.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!:
    • The charismatic drug lord Nino Brown gave such a speech to the old military veteran after the veteran tries to reason with Nino that he's destroying his own community and hurting his own people by selling drugs. Nino's response:
      Nino Brown: Look at you... in a few years they'll be marking your grave. Me? I'll be right here. What can you offer them? Another "I Have a Dream" speech? Some of that same shit you ripping off to me? Look where we at. Not a pot to piss in, nor a window to throw it out of. You's the fool, old man.
    • Nino Brown continued to joke about the war veteran later that night. It's the old man who gets the last laugh, however.
  • Smug Snake: Nino's sliminess reaches its epitome near the end when he makes a deal with the prosecution for a reduced sentence. He gloats to the cop who tried to get him convicted and whose mother he killed years ago to come work for him when he's back on the streets and praises the American justice system to the press. He is almost immediately publicly killed vigilante-style by an old man whose life he destroyed earlier in the film.
  • Spanner in the Works: Nino Brown is able to fast-talk his way out of serious prison time, only to get killed by an old war veteran he didn't take seriously earlier.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Subverted when Scotty chases Pookie through an extended Chase Scene and the cop never draws his gun. However, when the crook suddenly draws a gun, that is when the cop draws his own and shoots him down.
  • Verbal Tic: Duh-Duh-Duh Man stutters constantly.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
    • Nino and the CMB are based on Boston drug lord Darryl Whiting and his crew. Nino's last-second outburst in court was directly lifted from Whiting's trial.
    • The story of Nino Brown was also based on the Chambers Brothers story. These four brothers sold crack in Detroit. Like Nino had his apartment building called "The Carter," the Chambers Brothers also had an apartment called the Broadmoor. They moved into the 4 story, 52 unit building, selling different types of drugs on each floor. They often sold drugs alongside families who already lived in the building, forcing them to leave or deal with their illegal and dangerous activity. Officials have often claimed that the brothers ran their drug operation like a large, very organized corporation. The foursome became nationally known when they were caught on tape counting laundry baskets of money and flaunting their wealth.
  • Vigilante Execution: Drug lord Nino Brown walks arrogantly out of the courtroom in front of the police protagonists, confident he will not serve a sentence commensurate with his crimes. The old man who was hounding Brown throughout the film for destroying his neighborhood with his drug trade shoots him dead in the courthouse foyer.
  • Villainous Friendship: Nino has a close friendship with Gee Money that doesn't seem to be faked. When they establish their criminal empire, Nino tells Gee that they've finally made it and that they have to look out for each other. Near the end, he expresses his friendship with Gee as more important to him than all the money and women he has gotten, but they just can't go back to the way they were after Gee betrays Nino by allowing an undercover cop to infiltrate CMB and also making a deal with said cop behind Nino's back. Nino struggles to kill Gee as tears roll down his face.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Nino tries to gain the people's support by handing out free meals to the poor and money to the children. The cops Scotty and Peretti openly call his Robin Hood act out as crap, as does an old man whose grandson is among those children, because they all know Nino has forced entire families out of their homes to build his drug factory and is preying on the poor to sell his drugs. Deconstructed as Nino's empire starts to fall apart, and especially when Scotty beats him to the cheers and encouragement of a crowd, it's made clear that the people of the neighborhood despise Nino.
  • You Have Failed Me: After the police infiltrate the drug operation and the CMB are forced to destroy their production plant when they capture a police informant, Nino threatens his gang with killing them if they fail him again, stabbing one through the hand to make his point. Gee Money ends up paying the price for it later when he accidentally leads the gang into a sting operation, though Nino does cry for him.


Video Example(s):


Nino Brown

After getting off on a light sentence for his crimes, Nino takes the time to smugly gloat at Scotty and threatens to come for him once he gets out. An old man he threatened earlier makes sure he never makes good on his word.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / KarmaHoudiniWarranty

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