Monday, January 22, 2007

Me Mini Movie Reviews: Narc

Narc is a 2002 film written and directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. I’ve been wanting to watch it for a while now, and finally got around to it. With Joe Carnahan’s new movie Smokin’ Aces coming out soon, and the fact he has signed on to make White Jazz (a loose sequel to LA Confidential), I wanted to see what his style was. Plus, I’d heard Narc was a pretty good little movie that hadn’t received a lot of recognition.

And it is a good movie. It’s a dark and gritty look at cops vs crime, drugs, family, and the cost of pursuing the truth. Jason Patric plays Detective Nick Tellis, a cop dealing with the aftermath of an undercover narcotics bust that doesn’t go too well. Because of the contacts he has from his undercover work, he is offered a deal to work the case of another slain undercover narcotics officer. He initially refuses, but inevitably pursues it for his own haunted reasons. He is teamed with Ray Liotta, who plays Detective Henry Oak, a somewhat loose cannon working the case. Oak has his own agenda – to find those responsible for the cop’s death, and nothing else. From there, it is a relentless pursuit that shows the effects this case has on these two men and those around them, and how far will they take it. Tellis wants truth, Oak wants justice, which are not always the same thing.

Liotta gives a mesmerizing performance as a man on the edge obsessed with what happened to the slain cop. Patric turns in an equally good performance as a man with his own issues to deal with, yet thrust into a case he can’t let go of. The two play off each other very well – these two are really acting the parts and giving the characters depth, not just playing a role. Writer/director Joe Carnahan obviously has a specific story he’s telling, and does so with a gritty realism, yet manages to balance the street violence with equally realistic poignant character moments. You see the cops dealing with the case, yet you also see them with family and dealing with the issues that come from the dichotomy between the two. It reminds me of the movie Heat in that when the action hits and the shots are fired, you care about the characters because the movie let you see them as something more than just a badge and a gun. When the grayness of the truth is revealed, you can feel for what the characters are feeling in that moment knowing their mindset and how they got there.

The only downside I can think of is a couple scenes done with herky-jerky handheld camera techniques. However, listening to the makers of the film retell how it was done on a less than shoestring budget and what they had to do to get it shot, it makes sense. Normally I hate that kind of camera work, but it actually does work in the opening sequence to make you feel like you’re in Tellis’ shoes.

Overall, it’s worth checking out for fans of cop/crime films with solid character development. It’s a sometimes violent journey to get to the truth at the end, which doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat little bow for you either. I like movies like that, where you’re left thinking of the characters and their choices, and what they’re left to deal with. As Liotta’s character says, “It’s not about rules and regulations, it’s about right and wrong.” However, people see those things different ways. What happens when those views collide?

Verdict: Recommended for fans of gritty, gray morality plays.

Comments on "Me Mini Movie Reviews: Narc"


Anonymous Marina said ... (January 22, 2007 6:16 PM) : 

With the recent talk of "Smokin' Aces" I've been hearing a lot of talk about this one too. I'm interested to see what he has to offer and everything I've heard about "Narc" has been positive.


Blogger Eaglewing said ... (January 22, 2007 6:44 PM) : 

It's certainly worth the rental. I think Smokin' Aces will be more of a shoot'em up action flick than the character stuff in Narc. Still looking forward to Aces though...


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