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2002, dir. Joe Carnahan
105 min. Rated R.
Starring: Jason Patric, Ray Liotta.

Review by Jay "Me So" Hornsby
"What are you, some kind of Narc?”

Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made them, you’ve made them, and lord knows the stars of NARC have made them. Glaring ones like SOLARBABIES and SPEED 2 jump off the page of Jason Patric’s resume. For Ray Liotta, though, these mistakes are a little more painful. After his brilliance in GOODFELLAS, Ray has gone on to star in such cinematic gold as TURBULENCE, HANNIBAL, OPERATION DUMBO DROP, and HEARTBREAKERS. Fortunately, these guys have learned from their mistakes and chosen roles they’re perfectly suited for in the film NARC.

NARC is a dark cop movie that takes a gritty look at police, their relationships, and their quest for truth. Jason Patric (Sgt. Nick Tellis) and Ray Liotta (Lt. Henry Oak) team up to solve the murder of a fellow officer. Pretty simple and straightforward plot that with different stars (say Eric Roberts and Stephen Dorff) would be a straight-to-video crapfest. Patric is an undercover narcotics agent (a narc) who, after being revealed as a cop, chases a drug dealer attempting to arrest him. In the process of killing the crazed druggie, he accidentally shoots a pregnant lady. D’oh! Not the start of a good day. Lucky for him, he’s given one last chance to be a cop (sound like an anonymous B-movie yet?).

Ray Liotta’s old partner, another narc, was murdered in the line of duty. Liotta had been the lead investigator on the case and, many months later, still not caught the murderers. His knowledge of the case and Patric’s street contacts are thought to be enough to save the day.

What follows is a lot of scene chewing by both actors (which is not that bad of a thing considering the stars) and a lot of ass kicking. We’re treated to the typical getting to know you “I don’t like you but we’ve got to work together” dialogue that, again, if not delivered by Liotta or Patric, would be a cheese-fest. Oh, did I mention the kicking ass?

As we move along, we get to know the characters a little bit better. Patric is a recovering junkie from his narc days,and is losing his wife and baby due to his dedication to the job. Liotta is a cop that doesn’t give a fuck about rules and regulations as much as right and wrong. In a flashback, we see him find a little girl that had been pimped out for rent and then him beating the ever living shit out of the step-dad that did it. He admits that ever since his wife died, he's become a better cop since he doesn’t care if he lives or dies as long as it’s in the line of duty.

These are the type of cops people are scared of. They have no qualms about using violence as an interrogation tool. They beat, break, threaten, and kill their way toward the murder suspects and the truth of what happened to the dead policeman.

Along the way, Patric, in a detective feat worthy of Batman, deduces from a broken bong on the floor that a suspect was not murdered but in fact accidentally killed himself while smoking pot in the chamber of his unknowingly loaded shotgun.

As the movie progress, Liotta’s character increasingly becomes a darker shade of gray. He brutalizes suspects, gets strangely overly protective of his dead partner’s wife, and seems to know more about the killing than he’s letting on. The pacing is right on as each scene builds momentum (and blood) toward the inevitable final scene and denouement.

NARC feels like a late 70’s/early 80’s action movie to me. The dark muted color, some neat but not distracting camera tricks cough*anglee*cough, and cops just plain kicking people’s ass. Hell, I was half expecting a glimpse of a young Clint Eastwood in full Dirty Harry mode in the background of the police station. The only thing missing was a soundtrack by Isaac Hayes. Filmed with a low budget (at one point running out of money halfway through), it is in essence an indie film. But since it is a movie of today, you do have a couple obligatory plot “twists”. Luckily the twists weren’t a gimmick to base the movie around (like the premise of Liotta’s Identity) and were not anything that takes away from the previously enjoyable movie (like the ending of Liotta’s IDENTITY).

On a whole I really enjoyed NARC. The strong performances by both of the actors will allow you to overlook a couple small plot details (and Busta Rhymes) that might irk you otherwise. It’s got enough that everyone from the casual to serious fan of the genre will enjoy.


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