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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 31.87%
Average: 13.19%
Pretty Bad: 3.3%
Total Crap: 4.4%

6 reviews, 55 user ratings

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by BMW Joe

"One word: INTENSE!!!"
5 stars

Not since Reservoir Dogs or certainly GoodFellas has a film grabbed this viewer by the throat and simply not let go. Seeing Joe Carnahanís "Narc" unfurl on screen brought me back to being a young kid, sneaking into my first R rated film. That film was "The Deer Hunter", and being so young, Iíll never forget the sheer intensity of the Russian Roulette sequences, which Iím sure were equally intense for the adults in the crowd, as the scenes still carry weight today. "Narc" achieves that intensity level for the entire film. Not since "Reservoir Dogs" or certainly "GoodFellas" has a film grabbed this viewer by the throat and simply not let go. To discuss the opening sequence in too much length would be to ruin it for the audience, but suffice it to say, youíll never think of hypodermic needles in the same way.

Narc is the story of undercover narcotics officers Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) and Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), and ostensibly an exploration into perception and perspective a la "Rashomon". After the intense, absolutely grueling opening sequence, we flash forward a year later and Tellis has been suspended/ forcibly retired. Heís faced with a room full of bureaucrats who decide whether Tellis is fit to return to service with the Detroit Police Department. In reality, the city is being torn apart by race riots due to extensive racial profiling by the police. Henry Oakís partner, undercover narcotics officer Michael Calvess, was brutally murdered in a drug deal gone bad, and the suspects are African American. It doesnít take long to figure out these two guys, Tellis and Oak, and going to be working together. Despite Tellisí call to duty, heís become comfortable in civilian life with a beautiful wife and brand new baby boy. Thereís a beautiful, indelible image early in the film where Tellis is in the shower with his infant son. It adds tremendous texture to Tellisí character and shows Carnahansí dexterity as a filmmaker. However, when he looks at Calvessí photos and realizes he was a young man, like himself, with a new family as well, this is a case he simply canít turn down.

Oak has a more personal motivation, we find out how personal as the film unfolds, but clearly wants to avenge his partnerís murder. Heís got a reputation as an effective but roughshod rogue cop. Think Nick Nolte in "Q&A" (Liotta gained weight and sports a fu Manchu) without the homoerotic subtext. But, like Nolteís Mike Brennan, Liottaís character is filled with emotional conflict and turmoil. We first meet Liottaís character after heís taken down a collar, heís bleeding, and decides to make creative use of a few cue balls and a sock to discipline his uncooperative perp. The two characters bond and have an immediate respect for one another. Patric and Liottaís chemistry on screen is exceptional as both actors give career performances, and you heard it here first, Ray Liotta will win an Oscar for best actor as Paramount is releasing this film in December with a big Oscar push. Unfortunately for Jason Patric, the best work of his career may be overshadowed by the showier role of Liottaís Henry Oak.

As the two cops come together, they back track and re- trace Calvessí tracks as an undercover narc. Calvessí street name was Jimmy Fredericks, and in an absolutely brilliant use of split screen by Carnahan and editor John Gilroy, they condense time as the two hit the street digging up what they can. The whole style of the film is well conceived, style serves the story, but does not subsume it like "Requiem For A Dream", where the style is the story. Tellisí skill as a narc and his past drug use, which got him into trouble in the first place, comes in very handy in the search for new clues. Tellis isolates a bizarre and lethal batch of Heroin, which coincides with the trail of some suspects that are emerging. Tellis has now fully immersed himself in the case, much to the chagrin of his wife, but once heís on the trail he canít stop. The image of Calvess haunts him. As possible witnesses emerge and scuttlebutt hits the street, different versions of what might have happened play out. The deal took place at a remote downtown underpass, again and again the cops play out what might have occurred. Each time Carnahan cuts to an image of the triangular underpass, the victim and two suspects, then a nickel plated .357 and the ear splitting echo once the hammer strikes down. Again, the filmmakersí technical skills are impeccable here as the sound mix completely unnerves the viewer. Those gunshots almost knock you out of your seat. Cliff Martinez (Traffic) adds a hauntingly beautiful score to complement the imagery, but like a truly great score, does not draw attention to itself.

As the investigation hits its peaks and valleys, Tellis decides itís time for him to do some solo work. The picture he uncovers becomes a little murkier, as Calvess turns out not to be the squeaky clean cop put forth by the Detroit PD. Also, Tellis discovers some crucial personal information that calls Oak into question and raises serious conflict of interest issues. While the audience might begin to feel theyíve seen this dirty cop scenario before, Carnahan deftly pulls the rug out from under. The film climaxes in a warehouse/ crack den, as Oak and Tellis track down two drug dealers, one played quite well by Busta Rhymes, who were indeed at the scene of the murder. Oakís method is beat and torture first, ask questions later. Itís becomes seemingly clear to Tellis something ainít quite right, but again nothing is as it seems. It would be criminal to elucidate any further, but we donít know exactly what happened until the very end of the film, and what a twist it is. Like most great films itís not really about what happens, but the ride we take to get there, and this is one hell of a ride.

Intensity is word Iíve used often in describing this film, but when the shoe fits, ya gotta wear it. The film literally rattled me for hours after the screening, the imagery and sound hanging with me for days. "Narc" almost certainly wonít be for everyone. But, like someone once said about Oliver Stone, love him or hate him, when youíve seen one of his films, youíve definitely had an experience. "Narc" is one helluva experience. Make note of Joe Carnahan, because itís a name youíll hear quite a bit in the years to come. His short film, "Ticker", for BMW, is already being hailed as the best in this yearís series of films, which includes work by John Woo and Tony Scott. Iím willing to bet, in a fairly short time, Carnahan will move into the select company of the best directors this country has to offer.

One of the most thrilling, intense, visceral films to come down the pike in awhile.

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originally posted: 10/08/02 04:49:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/15/20 Charles Tatum Well-done enough to cover its predictability 4 stars
12/08/17 morris campbell gritty compelling cop movie 4 stars
1/18/12 hurdygurdy man Not bad. 4 stars
10/26/09 Boy76 Most people agree that it is legitimate for jewelers to make ornaments out of raw gold, but 2 stars
10/23/09 Gangster57 These two modifications allowed the aging network to expand the scope of its reach to inc 5 stars
10/22/09 Settor26 Which backfired because that pissed her off. , 5 stars
5/20/09 the dork knight somewhat decieving mystery (macguffin) with a cast so good, I wanted more 4 stars
2/15/07 johnnyfog I still can't believe that was Jason Patric! Outstanding movie 5 stars
2/01/07 William Goss Gritty style, great performances make up for underwhelming, overwrought plot. 4 stars
4/02/06 Dillon Gritty and real cop drama. Liotta and Patric are great 5 stars
9/05/05 R.W. Welch Urban cop flick has good plotting but is slightly overwrought -- steady fever pitch. 4 stars
8/04/05 Hockeytown Gripping reality, raw and visceral. Don't waste your time trying to find its equal. 5 stars
7/31/05 yuko great movie 5 stars
7/11/05 Indrid Cold Liotta is awesome as usual, but on the whole it's just a drop in the police drama ocean. 3 stars
12/02/04 lucas great acting by both leads 5 stars
8/16/04 Dallas Moye Best cop movie ever 5 stars
6/21/04 Rock Hound Just another yarn about corrupt cops: actually, they ALL are, really, and I ought to know.. 2 stars
5/06/04 J.Peckerfoot dave told me it was awesome, i thought it was just good. 3 stars
3/22/04 Keifer Sutherland_RULZ This is may not be the best film but... It beats watching 'Training Day'. 5 stars
1/08/04 Shane Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Better then TRIAING DAY is very much right AD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/03/04 A F That was a let down. 2 stars
9/18/03 AD better then training day 5 stars
9/17/03 Jinnvisible Angst(lots of close ups),claustophbic(set indoors),Cop,(same ole) ,Good facial hair though 3 stars
8/21/03 Piz Everything you would expect from a 2-hr crime/thriller flick 4 stars
8/15/03 Paul Dempsey Why can't a film like this get made in Australia I wonder? Low budegt yet top notch quality 5 stars
8/15/03 Double G pissing is more entertaining 1 stars
8/07/03 Monday Morning Gripping. I gripped my remote control and shut it off. 3 stars
7/30/03 Dr. Bitterpants I liked it in 1992 when it was originally called "NYPD BLUE: SEASON I." Same old stuff. 3 stars
7/06/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back MoFos!!!) Liotta deserves an Oscar, the camerawork is great, and the finale is awesome! 5 stars
6/18/03 Jack Sommersby Superb perfs by Patric and Liotta slightly redeem a palpably absurd screenplay. 3 stars
5/23/03 Johnny One of the best drama of the year 5 stars
5/17/03 planetlucas twisted shit, kind of depressing 4 stars
3/14/03 Ashley Corpening What a piss-stream of consciousness-numbing! Incoherent and insufferable. 1 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Ray Liotta - It's Your Birthday! 5 stars
2/11/03 Syrinx Great cop flick, but the cinematography makes you a little airsick. Ray Liotta was awesome. 4 stars
2/04/03 ownerofdajoint pactric and liotta put on a great show!!! 5 stars
2/01/03 Jimmy Jamez gripping stuff 5 stars
1/31/03 rue the whirl fuck king awes some 5 stars
1/27/03 adrianna GOOD MOVIE THAT KEPT YOU ON YOUR FEET. 4 stars
1/26/03 Mr Math Truly awesome flick, deserving of Oscar merit. Don't wait until video, see NARC 5 stars
1/24/03 meathole Holy fuck!!! Amazing!!! 5 stars
1/19/03 othree U already kno the butler did it Patric Liotta always deliver heroic even if the story wsnt 4 stars
1/18/03 john contrary to an earlier review Tillis's home life don't bog this film adds to it 5 stars
1/16/03 Bill everything a movie should be...the acting was phenominal 5 stars
1/15/03 nick2k didnt need to see busta though. 5 stars
1/14/03 ajay I can't say it enough, "Fuckin' Awsome!" 5 stars
1/12/03 Uncle Salty Liotta and Patric were on thier game from frame one. Excellent. 5 stars
1/12/03 Mr Math Hard-hitting stuff, Patric used right. 5 stars
1/12/03 Snake MASTER-PIECE! 5 stars
1/07/03 Flounder I guess I am in the minority here but this film sucked big time 1 stars
1/07/03 Ted Knutson Incredible. A must see for the discerning film watcher. 5 stars
1/01/03 Jesse the Movie Ventura This was a nicely told typical story. Well worth the drive to the Arclight in Hollywood. 5 stars
12/31/02 Don Great.............. 5 stars
12/25/02 Mason Really Good 5 stars
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  20-Dec-2002 (R)



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