Excellent - give me this over CSI Anything any day.
I'm not here to say Narc is an all-time classic, but it is an extremely
good film which deserved more attention than it got when released
earlier this decade.
Narc opens in a foot-chase between some guy and a scrawny, bedraggled
Jason Patric as undercover cop Nick. The chase is filmed using the now
all-too familiar hand held camera style, where the picture shudders and
bounces along so that it is hard to focus and make sense of exactly
what is happening.
(This is OK in small doses but is now far too often used to cover up
sub-par action. If I had my way directors could use it for no more than
3 minutes per film - and never for fight scenes.)
Back to the story: The bad guy kills an innocent bystander, then picks
up a young child as Nick closes in. Nick draws and shoots the bad guy
dead, only in doing so inadvertently shoots a pregnant woman in the
This is all shown in realistic graphic fashion, there are no
somersaults or kung fu kicks, and no-one shoots with the pistol held
sideways (even though that does look cool). The background is washed
out greys and blues and kinda depressing really.
This sets the tone for Narc.
Cut to Nick the Narc's subsequent trial proceedings for the usual cop
charge of recklessness near innocent bystanders. It turns out that he
had already been sacked from the force, but as movies tend to do, they
give him a reason to be pulled back in.
In this case another undercover cop has been murdered and the police
want answers. Answers that they feel only a guy who was previously
undercover, and who would have low-life connections and knowledge can
give. Nick is sent back in to find the killer with the promise of
reinstatement if he is successful.
At this time Nick also meets his new partner Henry Oak, played by Ray
Liotta, who was also good friends with the murdered cop Michael
Calvess. Oak is some-what of a loose cannon, abiding by the cop-movie
cliché: in short he "plays by his own rules", and will stop at nothing
to find the killer.
Of course being thrust together Nick and Oak don't like or trust each
other initially, (Oak thinks Nick is Internal Affairs) but it feels
real and justified here, and not at all forced.
As the investigation begins it becomes evident that this is not a movie
where the trail is simply there to move between shootouts and car
chases, with snappy dialogue in between. The investigation is slow,
methodical and deliberate, with dead ends and lots of wasted effort.
Oh and in this case a dude with no pants who lit his missus on fire as
revenge. Why? Let's just say for causing him to go pantless.
Along the way Nick's wife, disappointed that he has moved back into the
firing line, decides enough is enough and moves out, taking their child
with her. Again, in a lesser buddy-cop movie there would be a tearful
reunion and all would be rosy, not here.
The film's crescendo builds onward and upward toward providing an
answer to what actually happened on the day Calvess was killed. We are
given tidbits of information along the way, but nothing is resolved
until the film is ready for it to happen.
The ending is not so much a twist as it is a resolution, and when the
truth finally arrives it is more a relief than a revelation.
A few things I learned watching Narc:
Despite being a mere cartoon himself, Busta Rhymes can actually act,
he has a brief but important role here and is very good. Narc might
be the only place that you might hear a song by The Baby Namboos.
Actually a very good song by The Baby Namboos. Ray Liotta is as
versatile as anyone going around. His resume this decade includes Wild
Hogs, Smokin' Aces, Heartbreakers, Revolver and Hannibal. And he was in
Muppets from Space in 1999, and made me laugh in that. Jason Patric
is best when playing a scungy, downbeat low-life (see also Rush),
largely because I think he is a scungy, downbeat guy (not necessarily a
Final Rating 8.5 / 10. A reasonably straightforward film elevated by
great performances and gritty realism, give me this over "CSI Anything"
If you liked this review (or even if you didn't) check out
A really atmospheric and enjoyable thriller
Over a year after he was suspended during an investigation into a shooting
when he was undercover, Nick Tellis is given an opportunity to redeem
himself by joining an investigation into the murder of another undercover
cop who's partner is a suspect. Nick and Henry Oak team up, investigating
each other as much as the actual murder. They follow a lead from a junkie
but begin to uncover clues that point to police weapons getting onto the
black market and the suggestion that someone within the Detroit force is
bed with the junkies.
A small film with big budget problems gets picked up at Sundance and has
Cruise's name added to it as executive producer. Thank goodness that this
film got bought up and received a bigger audience. It is a shame that
people didn't go and see it but it still isn't bad for a film that was
almost shutdown mid-shoot due to budget problems (ie, they didn't have
any!). The plot is a good cop thriller in the mould of the old 70's
thrillers where the lines between good/bad, right/wrong are pretty
The focus of the film is the mcguffin of the tunnel - what happened, who
what? but the film is much more than that, it has themes of family and
scenes of violence and tension that move everything forward. It is easily
one of the best films released in 2003. It manages to take a genre that
seen so often and make it feel fresh and enjoyable.
As both writer and director Carnahan is brilliant. His script is well
written and has plenty of tough dialogue but it is the feel and look of
film that is brilliant. On top of the toning used to taint each scene
job is mostly washed out blues, family scenes are reds but gradually lose
their taint over the film) the film uses other tricks. The framing of
are different for each character and it really adds to the film. If you
like this film it is worth hunting out the DVD just for the extras,
talks in detail about the reasons behind the composition of some shots and
it is impressive to hear and understand his thought process.
The cast are excellent, although really the film hinges on the two leads.
Liotta is as good as he has ever been. It would be easy to just accept
performance as a `powerhouse' but it also has sensitivity, emotion and
layers to it. Patric is also good, his themes with family and past are
brought up well in a performance that accepts that he is very much
to Liotta. Support from Busta Rhymes is minor but he plays it very well,
not at all like many hip hop stars who do movies to enhance their
bling-bling gangsta personae. There are other solid support roles too,
it really is Liotta and Patric's film.
As a cop thriller this harks back to darker days and it is very effective,
with a solid plot and a good sense of the unknown until some solid twists
near the end. The film has an impressive style to it and, while Liotta
deserves the praise, the success and feel of this film are down to the
skills of Carnahan as both writer and director. With his talented and
underpaid crew he has turned a good script into a great