Reviews

Narc

4

There are few better ways to start a movie than by giving the audience a good slap in the face. Yes, it's rude, and yes, it'll offend a few people, but it sure gets their attention. And writer/director Joe Carnahan will definitely snare your concentration with Narc's opening sequence - a sweaty, gasping, hand-held sprint through a rundown Detroit ghetto, one man with a gun chasing another armed with a syringe. It'd be too plot-spoily to say exactly how that needle is wielded, but be assured that, by the time the hunter reaches his quarry, Narc will have you horrifyingly hooked. And don't worry - it doesn't trail off after that. In fact, for the rest of the movie, Carnahan switches from face slaps to gut punches. And boy, does he keep them coming.

Carnahan made his debut with the little-seen 1998 flick Blood, Guts, Bullets&Octane, a sloppy-but-flashy Tarantino rip-off that barely blipped on anyone's radar. With Narc, adapted from his own short Gun Point (which itself was based on 1976 police documentary The Thin Blue Line), the Blood, Guts helmer has clearly grown up. He's also clearly been watching too many '70s cop movies and reading too many James Ellroy novels. Its wintry backdrop and gritty atmosphere snitch Narc out as an obvious homage to the likes of Serpico and The French Connection, while Carnahan proudly brandishes a well-thumbed book of cine-tricks, jump-cutting here, flicking to an over-saturated flashback there...

But so what? It works, and is backed up by a skintight plot, a snappy script and a duo of brutal performances from Jason Patric and former GoodFellas star Ray Liotta (who also, admirably, yanked the project off the ground). Patric plays ex-undercover narco Nick Tellis, who's suspended for the accidental death of a civilian until he's offered a get-out clause: solve the murder of a fellow undercover cop and receive the assignment of your choice. Liotta is his partner, homicide detective Henry Oak, a man with a personal stake in the investigation: the dead officer used to be his partner and they'd been friends.

Tellis is measured and methodical, although he remains highly strung and jittery; Oak is ursine and apoplectic, a celebrated cop who is blinded by rage. Both, psychologically speaking, are the walking wounded, yet they're dragging each other into the lion's den. It's a two-man show and Liotta and Patric form a praiseworthy double act, especially during the extended final scene, where the friction between them results in a constant, cascading shower of sparks.

Carnahan may occasionally lapse into cliché (Tellis' whiny, characterless wife is a knuckle-in-the-spine niggle) but he's not trying to reinvent a genre here. Anyone who likes their cop flicks savage will be a glutton for the punishment Narc dishes out.

Verdict:

A '70s cop thriller with a modern-day thrust, Narc can't fail to impress cop-movie zealots who are willing to take the blows and swallow the clichés. True grit.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Crezzy123

      Dec 7th 2008, 21:54

      5

      The opening sequence of this film is enough to captivate any audience, beginning with a chase, and a mistake that ends in a fatal shooting. I promise you, this film is the re-awakening of 70s crime-thrillers,with helpings of suspense and nitty-gritty violence along the way. "Narc" follows the story of Nick Tellis (played by Jason Patric), an undercover narcotics policeman in the heart of a Detroit ghetto. He is placed on suspension from his job, after his accidental shooting of an innocent pregnant woman. Tellis is told that in order to be reinstated officially, he must solve the crime of a fellow police officer who was killed whilst also working undercover. He is then introduced to his new partner, Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) who is desperate to avenge the death of his fellow partner. Directed by Joe Carnahan, this film is extremely fast paced and seat gripping. Patric gives a very convincing performance of a man attempting to balance his career with family life. In contrast, Liotta's superb performance potrays Henry Oak, who is widowed, has no family, and is still extremely enraged about the death of a very close friend. The twosome also represents the idea of the "buddy system" in police investigations, complete opposites in personalities, but working well together. The friction between the two characters also comes to a head, revealing much more about Tellis and Oak, than we believe initially, you cannot say too much about this film, without spoling the fantastic twist at the end. The music in this movie also simply has to be mentioned. Composed by Cliff Martinez, who was also behind the music for "Traffic", the soundtrack is very atmospheric and moving. Always appropriate to the scene, it is the cherry on top of this jam-packed cake. We feel the emotions that the characters are feeling. Especially during one point in the movie, where Liotta's character tells the story of his late wife, we sympathise with Oak and almost see past his ferocious shell. This particular scene has to give credit to the director of photography, Alex Nepomniaschy, who shows Henry Oak almost behind bars, as the branches of a tree are reflected on the car window across his face, whilst he recites his monologue. Film editor of "Narc", John Gilroy, also succeeds in bringing about a variety of atmospheres during the film with his brilliantly timed shot on Liotta during "Oak's story" whereas during the extremely tense last 20 minutes or so, phronetic cuts and hand held cameras are used in order to bring about anxiety as the ambiguous ending uncovers itself. The movie is also a little different from the usual "who dunnit" scenario. There are several uses of montages which tell the story better than any script ever could. This is reminiscent of "The French Connection" showing what life was like before Oak's partner was killed and how it has affected different characters in many ways. Homage is also paid to "The French Connection" through the bloody violence and drug-related story-line, Carnahan makes it work without attempting to recreate William Friedkin's original. We also see nostalgia of 70s crime movies through split-screen shots and the two police officers working together, but this movie also relates to modern-day and what does actually occur in some people's day to day lives. To conclude, I ask you to watch this classic of a movie. Personally, I found it extremely entertaining and moving. It can apply to everybody through the different characters, and I guarantee you will not be able to move from your seat as it will have you gripped up until the very last moment. With an enormously well written script, brilliant acting and perfect length, you cannot go wrong with "Narc". Had to write this for my A-level english piece =]

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      4

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