Narc is written and directed by Joe Carnahan. It stars Ray Liotta, Jason Patric, Chi McBride, Busta Rhymes and Richard Chevolleau. Music is scored by Cliff Martinez and cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy.
After being suspended from the Detroit police force following an undercover drug bust gone horribly wrong, undercover narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Patric) is coerced back into active duty to see if he can help crack the case of a mysteriously slain fellow officer. Paired with the victim's volatile ex-partner, Henry Oak (Liotta), Tellis tries to hold it together as the case grows ever more complex the deeper he gets.
Don't tune into this one if you want cartoon action and good cop/bad cop laughs, this is a perpetual downer, stripped to the bone, it's a portrait of damaged people in a shabby part of Detroit. The investigation is standard formula stuff, but it's with the characterisations, and the attention to detail of said characters, that lifts this to near classic status. Grit and grime rule the day, with the violence never gratuitous and pulsing with intensity. The mystery element of the case is strong, we constantly wonder what happened as we trawl through the avenues of red herrings and streets populated with scummy characters, but nicely Carnahan has us primarily concerned with what happens to Tellis and Oak as opposed to the slain copper they are investigating. Carnahan breaks free from the sub-Tarrantino mimicry taunts that had landed his way previously, to produce a daring film visually, with kinetic hand held camera work, split-screens and washed out colours, all aiding the narrative, keeping this always as a gripping tale of substance.
It's not perfect, the wife is too standard, some loose ends dangle from the finale, but backed by two exemplary performances from Liotta and Patric, both never better, Narc goes way above cliché to hold in a grip throughout. 8/10