Coming to NYC’s Maysles Cinema as part of a Marc Levin Masterclass series this Saturday, December 7: MR UNTOUCHABLE
Marc Levin’s portrait of the most notorious drug kingpin of NYC had its world premiere at CineVegas in 2007. The film went on to screen at Urbanworld, Docville, and other fests before being released theatrically and on VOD by Magnolia Pictures.
The legendary Leroy “Nicky” Barnes ruled Harlem for the first half of the 1970s, rising from a common drug dealer to the leader of a criminal empire dubbed the Council, trading largely in heroin and cocaine, brokered through close ties with the Mafia. As ironically suggested by his nickname, borrowed for the film’s title, his hubris ultimately led to his fall from power. When evidence was finally collected against Barnes, he turned on his former associates, securing his freedom through the FBI’s Witness Protection Program, and, as revealed in Levin’s film, seems to have made out like a bandit. Interviewed in silhouette, the remorseless Barnes-in-hiding flashes conspicuous symbols of success – a natty suit, expensive jewelry, and even champagne – trying too hard to project the kind of power he hasn’t wielded in decades. Levin’s overly slick but engaging portrait recaptures 1970s Harlem, managing to dance a fine line between nostalgic criminal glamorization and begrudging satisfaction in Barnes’ comeuppance.