For those who are sick of buddy-cop comedies and the unbelievable heroics that usually fill the screen in police thrillers, then look no further than Joe Carnahanís Narc. It is a gritty and uncompromising journey into the world of undercover narcotics law enforcement.Suspended for messing up a covert operation with a stray bullet, Officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) is offered a second chance due to his many contacts within the Detroit drug dealing underworld. The deal is that he will get a permanent desk job if he gets lands a conviction for the murder of a policeman that the department has no leads for. Tellis is teamed up with the hardnosed and violently unstable Detective Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) who also happens to be the slain copís last partner. Together they take the viewer on a journey through the seedy underbelly of the Detroit drug community as they search for answers. Both Tellis and Oak are determined to solve the case but for very different reasons. Tellisí wife does not want him in the line of fire any longer and a conviction will mean restarting a safer position in the force. Oak, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to become judge, jury and executioner to his partnerís killer. With the seeds of these contradicting motivations firmly planted, conflict between the pair is imminent.
Narc has a strong level of character development that fully explains the motivations and intentions of Tellis and Oak. Tellisí unraveling family life is frequently shown and Oakís background is revealed giving clarity to his fiery temper towards criminals. This gives the film much more depth than what is normally served up in this genre.
The film looks great thanks to some very stylish editing and brilliant camerawork that depicts a very bleak side of downtown Detroit. Carnahanís script and confident direction show much potential considering this is only his second film. The acting is first-rate with Patric playing the troubled Tellisí with flawless conviction and Liottaís explosive portrayal of Detective Oak being one of his best performances to date.
Narc is a tough-as-nails cop drama that, as well as delivering plenty of action and suspense, delves deeply into dark corners of the human psyche. It is a film shot with harsh realism that relies on a character driven story rather than car chases, explosions and goofy sidekicks in order to entertain.Narc is the best police thriller in a long while and gives a much needed shot in the arm to what has become a fairly worn-out genre.