Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Jack City. B+

Despite my scurry to catch up on several seasons of 'Lost,' I've still managed to fit a few movies into my schedule. Among them is Mario Van Peebles' 'New Jack City,' a gangster picture that uses both convention and style to give it a sharp, swift quality. The movie is fairly formulaic. Wesley Snipes plays a drug lord who takes over an apartment building for his illegal operations. Of course he's got men to do everything. He takes in all the money and lives like a pampered king. Mario Van Peebles also stars as the cop trying devise a plan to bring him down. The movie is filled with other interesting characters, all of whom contribute to Peebles' strong anti-drug message. But it's a message he never forces on us. He actually at times attempts to glamorize the drug world, which is good on his part because some of these drug barons really do get by on the high life. But at the same time he shows us the results of drug addiction, especially in a great scene at a rehab center. Peebles is clearly setting up a big climax and he definitely delievers one. There's plenty of action to go around, which makes the film come out more as an action picture than a stirring crime drama. Still, it's probably a good thing. Well made, provocative action movies don't come along all that often. And while this one isn't perfect, it's definitely worth seeking out.

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