Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Mr. Untouchable”

(Magnolia Pictures. Opened in Houston Nov. 16. Rated R. 91 minutes. Directed by Marc Levin.) Leroy Nicky Barnes, Thelma Grant, Carol Hawkins-Williams, Joseph Jazz Hayden, Leon Scrap Batts, others. Original music by Hi-Tek.

Interesting documentary about Nicky Barnes, famous former-junkie-turned-millionaire heroin dealer in 1970s Harlem. (His chief rival, the equally-ruthless Frank Lucas, is played by Denzel Washington in the based-on-fact feature American Gangster.) So well-known and feared in the city at that time, he earned a New York Times Magazine cover (which he posed for) dubbing him Mr. Untouchable. Barnes himself contributes to the proceedings (he’s now in a witness protection program and so his face is obscured), reminiscing while sitting at a conference table, hands fondling stacks of money and other props while wearing a gold watch and rings. We hear from – and about – ex-wives, girlfriends, associates, law enforcement, journalists, all weighing in on how it was when criminals really ran the city. Unlike rival Lucas (now serving life in prison), Barnes secured an eventual release from jail in part due to his decision to break the number-one rule of the streets: you don’t snitch on your own people. Despite his seeming lack of remorse, you don’t come away hating Barnes, just what he did to his community. Soundtrack features 70s R&B icons such as Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, etc. with original music by Hi-Tek, a Cincinnati hip-hop producer and DJ.

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