Pictures presents a film written and directed by Joe Carnahan.
Running time: 105 minutes. Rated R (for strong brutal
violence, drug content and pervasive language).
Jason Patric, Ray Liotta, Chi McBride, Alan Van Sprang,
is a certain level of comfort in seeing a traditional cop
drama like Narc handled so well. In a time where this
kind of movie is defined by style over substance, it's nice
to have a film that knows we need a good story and sympathetic
characters to make us care.
Tellis (Jason Patric) is a Detroit undercover narcotics officer.
When a botched arrest ends in the death of an unborn baby,
Nick is booted from the squad. Eighteen months later, he is
called back by homocide captain Cheevers (Chi McBride). The
Detroit police want Nick to investigate the murder of an undercover
officer named Michael Calvess (Alan Van Sprang). The police
have no leads, and they need a knew perspective on the investigation.
In order to solve the case, Nick teams up with Calvess's former
partner, Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), a loose cannon of a cop who
is known for his reckless and violent behavior. As Nick investigates
the case, he becomes obsessed with finding Calvess's killer.
But the deeper in he gets, the more he realises that the truth
may lie within Officer Oak.
the most part, the investigation itself is pretty straightforward.
Except for the film's climax, there's not much in the way
of twists or big surprises. The most interesting parts of
Narc are those that deal with Nick's home life. Nick
is married with a young girl, but his obsession with his job
are pushing them away. These scenes give Nick a greater sense
of character than is typically found in cop thrillers. Henry
is also fairly well developed, but most of that comes within
the film's final revelations. Narc falters once it
completely abandons Nick's home life is exchange for the investigation
- the police work isn't uninteresting, but it's not as compelling
as Nick's personal issues.
all of Narc's substance, there's plenty of style, too.
Just about every camera trick in the book - from hand-held
shots, to split-screen, to black-and white - is used, usually
to great effect. Occasionally, the visual tweaks threaten
to distract from the film, but it never becomes overwhelming.
Director Joe Carnahan's last picture, Blood, Guts, Bullets,
and Octane showed off his flair for flamboyance, and now
he's proven that, given the right material (the screenplay
was also written by Carnahan), he can actually craft a compelling
story behind the flash.
two lead performances are superlative. Jason Patric gives
a measured, understated performance that is perfect for his
character. We can feel the emotions boiling beneath his calm,
subdued, exterior, and when he finally explodes, it feels
like that sort of thing was bound to happen sooner or later.
Ray Liotta is much less subdued, but no less impressive for
it. In fact, his intense performance may be the best thing
about the movie.
movie's climax will certainly be the most talked-about part
of Narc. It is a tour de force of editing and powerful
performances that resonates long after the credits role. The
final explanation of the plot is surprising, but not absurd,
and Ray Liotta's performance during that scene borders on
brilliant. The climax might not work for everyone, but for
me it was undoubtedly the highlight of the film.
employs the style of violence present in Scorcese's films
- brutal and shocking, but never over-the-top. The blood doesn't
paint the walls, it merely splatters a little bit. And when
the cops or the criminals take their fists to someone, it
feels like we're being hit; I grimaced once or twice
throughout Narc's running length.
as dark a crime drama as is likely to be released this year.
The dark atmosphere and powerhouse performances mix to create
a memorable downer of a movie that will not be forgotten.
Unfortunately, Narc leaves too many open ends with
Nick and his family to be a wholly satisfying experience.
It doesn't stop me from recommending Narc - far from
it - but it keeps it from being one of the best movies of
2003 Matt Noller