Suspended undercover narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) is reluctantly drawn back into the force to find out the truth behind the murder of a young Detroit police officer killed in the line of duty. Nick is teamed with the slain officerís partner Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), who will stop at nothing to avenge his death. But as the case unravels, the dark underbelly of the world of narcotics reveals itself in surprising and devastating ways.
Review by Louise Keller:
Violent and disturbing, Narc takes a close look at the narcotics scene and corruption on the force from the point of view of an undercover cop. Writer/director Joe Carnahan uses plenty of raw energy to tell this gritty tale. Itís an ugly world thatís portrayed, and although the performances are strong and overtly convincing, there is little that is new or hasnít been done before. Neither of the two central characters is perfect, and as the film progresses, we chip down through the layers as we discover their strengths and weaknesses. Ray Liotta and Jason Patric make a formidable team and we can connect to the characters they play very strongly. We learn about their home life and what impact their work on the streets undercover plays on it. Both Nick and Henry as damaged as a result of what they do for a living. Itís a tough life filled with danger and ugly confrontations and impossible not to let it affect you. Unfolding the mystery of the circumstances of the officerís murder is shown gradually through a series of flashbacks. Flashbacks are also used to provide information about Nick and Henryís past and what makes them who they are. Liotta is no stranger to these roles and his Henry Oak is a rather frightening and intense character with an unpredictable violent streak. Jason Patricís Nick Tellis is a complex man with regrets and a conscience. The violence on screen is harsh and unsettling, and by the filmís end, I really felt as though I had been battered as well. The filmís resolution does not satisfy and the final frame raises issues rather than address them.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:†
Although it is more layered, more character driven and more gripping than the average cops behaving badly, police procedural / police corruption drama, Narc is so beastly and ugly it hardly passes for entertainment. We know the terrain; policeman killed, police investigate, police stumped, police call in retired/suspended/discredited crack officer to help solve the case and he starts to unravel the dirty deeds Ė as well as his own life. Newcomer Joe Carnahan was feted at Sundance for his directorial flair, and certainly he is a talented filmmaker. His script is tight and actually written with something in mind, and the story plays out to an unexpected close. He draws top notch performances from his cast, and we should pay special tribute to the actors who play all the beaten up scumbags, who are usually thrown away as unknown faces, who cares if they get beaten to a pulp. They all deliver bloody good performances (bloody AND good). So my reservation about the film is not about its craftsmanship or its creative essence. Itís about the treatment of its subject: do we learn anything, see anything in a new light or pose a new question about human nature to justify the brutality?
Email this article
CAST: Jason Patric, Ray Liotta, Busta Rhymes, Chi McBride
PRODUCER: Diane Nabatoff, Ray Liotta, Michelle Grace, Julius R. Nasso
DIRECTOR: Joe Carnahan
SCRIPT: Joe Carnahan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alex Nepomniaschy ASC
EDITOR: John Gilroy
MUSIC: Cliff Martinez (composer); Brian Ross (music supervisor)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Greg Beale (co-production designer)
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 14, 2003