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Narc (2002)
star Printer-Friendly version
Review Date: January 08, 2003
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writer: Joe Carnahan
Producers: Ray Liotta, Diane Nabatoff, Julius R. Nasson
Actors:
Jason Patric as Nick Tellis
Ray Liotta as Henry Oak
Chi McBride as Cheevers
Plot:
An undercover drug enforcement police officer is given a reprieve of duty after he gets himself a little "too involved" in his work. A year and a half later, the police department calls on him to return because they are stuck on a certain case of a murdered cop. The undercover agent hooks up with another badass cop who was friends with the dead officer, and both men set out to uncover the grime beneath the murder. Grittiness ensues.
Critique:
NARC is not an action movie as its promotional items might be leading on. It's a powerful, gritty (look the word "grit" up in the dictionary and you will find this film's poster right next to it), supremely acted piece of cop fiction that pulled me into its violent, undercover, mystery world, punched me along with several of the "perps" from the film itself and dropped me off with a thought-provoking finish and plenty of questions to ponder afterwards. It's basically a character-driven movie, not action oriented. It's the kind of flick during which you will be able to hear other audience members coughing every now and then (it tends to go abruptly quiet in its more pensive scenes). It's also a little "slow" for those unaccustomed to developed characters and family backgrounds, but I loved it all. I guess that could also be due to my love of "gritty" films in general though. In fact, one of the reasons that I love watching movies so much is that they represent worlds in which I will likely never find myself (unless one of the studios decides to make a picture about an out-of-work M.B.A./screenwriter who decides to write movie reviews as a hobby and instead, finds himself knee-deep in booze, tech geekiness, nachos, a failed relationship and his parents garage-but I digress). This film features a well-established milieu, convincing actors, a dense story which leads you deeper and deeper into the world of an undercover police officer, and enough machismo to conquer any football game (I have no idea what that last part means, by the way).

Having said that, the spark that definitely takes this film to that other level has to be the superb performances put forth by both Jason Patric (you know, the guy from SPEED 2...hehehe) and Ray Liotta. Both men are charismatically messed up in this movie and as every minute ticks by, and each character is developed as a three-dimensional human being (Liotta's monologue about his wife was great), we can't help but be swept into their dark, grungy underworld. Top that off with a director who definitely knows how to shoot a realistic movie dealing with the psychological implications of the undercover cop, and you've got style up the wazoo (the opening sequence is about as energetic a sequence as I've seen this year), a story which feels a little rushed towards the end but engages nonetheless, and Liotta & Patric engulfing themselves into two no-bullshit bastards out to "do good", each in their own way. Some of the film's dialogue is also particularly snappy, especially in the case of Liotta, who barks out a number of intimidating doozies throughout. I swear I'd hate to be caught alone in a room with that guy. Yikes! The film also sports a number of memorable scenes, two of which I already mentioned, as well as one featuring Patric in a room with his "superiors", and one particularly harsh interrogation of a suspect in his own apartment. The film is also pretty graphic in some of its violence, but nothing that I've personally never witnessed in similar films before.

Overall, I think this picture will appeal to most anyone who enjoys their "gritty cop" flicks, stylistic camera tomfoolery, macho guys-- with genuine familial ties-- kicking bad guy ass and anyone who has previously enjoyed the thespianic endeavors (I know that's not a real word, but I'm going with it anyway!) of Patric and Liotta, both of whom are about as riveting as they come here. Grimly entertaining.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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