According a new report, Warner Bros. plans to reboot the 1991 film New Jack City. Directed by Mario Van Peebles, the action film heavily influenced hip-hop culture and received mostly-positive critic reviews. Produced for just $8 million, New Jack City earned nearly $50 million at the box office.
Actor Wesley Snipes was an emerging star when New Jack City originally released. In the film, he portrays Nino Brown, a New York City drug kingpin who is chased by detective Scotty Appleton, portrayed by hip-hip musician Ice-T. At the time, Snipes was best known for starring in the baseball movie Major League, while Ice-T was primarily known for releasing “gangster” music. The film’s release paralleled on-going obscenity controversies associated with musical groups such as 2 Live Crew and N.W.A, two hip-hops acts that ultimately elevated the genre's place in pop culture while raising questions about freedom of speech. After New Jack City, Snipes went on to become a ‘90s action star (Demolition Man, Blade), while Ice-T later became a familiar face on network television for portraying Odafin Tutuola on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Per Deadline, Warner Bros. plans to reboot New Jack City. The screenplay will be written by Malcolm Mays, who portrayed Kevin Hamilton in Snowfall, an FX series co-created by the late John Singleton. Mays has a supporting role in the 2019 Anna Kendrick-led comedy The Day Shall Come, and will direct and produce the upcoming drama Flint, set against the Flint, Michigan water crisis. In 2015, Mays released his feature directorial debut Covers.
Mays has a real-life connection to an infamous American gangster. His uncle, Stanley “Tookie” Williams, founded the American gang known as the Crips in South Central Los Angeles. After being convicted on four counts of murder in 1979, Tookie Williams received a death sentence and was ultimately executed over 25 years later in 2005. His downfall preceded Barry Michael Cooper’s 1987 investigative report for The Village Voice, “Kids Killing Kids: New Jack City Eats Its Young.” Cooper later wrote New Jack City’s screenplay with Thomas Lee Wright.
While many gangster films glorify and/or stylize a life of crime (see Scarface), New Jack City is indeed rooted in authenticity and revelatory reporting. Given Mays' familial connection to an on-going American crime story, he’ll undoubtedly be able to shed light on past gang culture while simultaneously making a larger statement about modern society. Just as the original New Jack City served as a cinematic platform for up-and-coming stars, the reboot will likely propel a new wave of young talent, and hopefully have a potent message as well.