An aggressive chase and a stray bullet nearly ends the career of undercover narcotics agent Nick Tellis (Jason Patrick) whose job is tearing apart his life and his family. Tellis dreams of working a less stressful desk job, and he knows that a conviction in an upcoming case will land him the job. So he accepts an assignment assisting the overlong investigation of a slain officer, hoping it will be his last experience of street work. Tellis is partnered with Lt. Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) whose unorthodox methods are part of the reason the case is still unsolved. Strict attention to police procedure and cop lingo lift writer-director Joe Carnahan's (BLOOD, GUTS, BULLETS AND OCTANE) gritty, violent film above the cliches of the typical police thriller. NARC is fueled by impassioned performances from leads Patrick, a wary officer who seeks the truth as a means to his own psychological redemption; and Liotta (who also produced), as a broken cop with sadistic, rule-breaking tendencies. The film's grimy immediacy is to the credit of cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy.
Jittery camera moves and a grey-blue palette make it clear that Narc
is a gritty police drama in the tradition of The French Connection
. Jason Patric plays Nick Tellis, a former undercover cop with an accidental death on his conscience, which may be why he's agreed to partner with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), a lieutenant determined to track down the killers of his former partner. This could all be rote, but the grit sticks: writer-director Joe Carnahan takes a huge leap forward from his Tarentino-wannabe first film, Blood, Guts, Bullets & Octane
. The entire cast is excellent; Patric and Liotta give rich, textured performances that make their respective obsessions vivid and sad. Narc
could use more of the dark humour that occasionally bursts out, but the movie's drive and energy make it more than a bleak tale of good intentions gone bad. --Bret Fetzer