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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 31.11%
Average: 13.33%
Pretty Bad: 3.33%
Total Crap: 4.44%

6 reviews, 54 user ratings

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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Cop out"
3 stars

In wintry Detroit, the detectives all sport bushy goatees and handlebar moustaches to help fend off the cold. Narc is set in the same graffiti and hip-hop neighbourhood as Eminem’s 8 Mile. There isn’t much warmth to this gritty, independent cop thriller, written and directed by Joe Carnahan (1998’s Blood Guts, Bullets and Octane). There isn’t much colour, either.

Carnahan, cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy and production designer Greg Beale opt for a tried and true palette of rainy, washed-out greys. Partly, I suspect, in homage to 1970s drug detective dramas like The French Connection and Serpico, to which Narc is a throwback. Handheld camerawork is a staple of police drama nowadays, and heavily overused here. I also tired quickly of Carnahan’s penchant for framing his characters through windscreens, split screens, glass windows and mirrors.

What lifts Narc above the average violent crime drama is the solid testosterone-fuelled performances from two largely unsung actors. Jason Patric is Nick Tellis, an undercover narcotics cop (“narc”) whose immersion in the drug culture has clouded his judgment and resulted in a messy incident and his suspension from the force. Tellis is given the chance to redeem his record if he can use his underworld contacts to nab the murderer of another narc, Calvess (Alan Van Sprang). We witness Calvess’ execution-style killing - frequently - in grainy flashback.

Tellis teams himself with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), Calvess’ former partner. Liotta stacked on the beef to play the bear-like Oak. Now a widower with nothing to lose, Oak’s heavy-handed tactics have earned him a 93% conviction rate and a reputation for instability. He’s “swinging a big stick”, one police colleague wryly remarks. Surprisingly, Liotta’s Oak is hot-tempered but no livewire. The characterisation is meaty and realistic, without being flashy or especially memorable.

Narc’s story twists and turns to disguise the motive and man behind Calvess’ death until the climactic lengthy warehouse showdown. By then, the plot has become too complicated for its own good. The final scene descends into overwrought soap opera, with two men shouting and waving guns at each other.

It’s yet another example of the cop drama clichés that Narc embraces too enthusiastically. There’s also the frustrated wife who walks out, the cop who believes in right and wrong rather than rules and regulations, a rooftop chase, police corruption, the revelatory confidential file and a dying confession. The accumulation of clichés gradually becomes wearying, detracting from an otherwise efficiently moody and serious-minded thriller.

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originally posted: 07/28/03 13:48:40
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

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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