Joe Carnahan's NARC, an absolutely riveting crime drama, is a mystery that's
what Quentin Tarantino might come up with if he crossed TRAINING DAY with
TRAFFIC. In an unforgettable pair of Oscar caliber performances, Jason Patric
plays Nick Tellis, an ex-narc, and Ray Liotta plays Henry Oak, Nick's new,
temporary partner. They are in the process of tracking down a cop killer, but
nothing in the movie is quite as straightforward as it might appear.
Nick, whom we meet in a heart-stopping opening chase sequence, was drummed out
of the force for his actions during the chase. The story is set eighteen months
later when he is offered reinstatement if he'll help solve the aforementioned
mystery and bring in the murderer of a fellow undercover narcotics agent.
Besides getting his full salary again, Nick is also offered what he most
desires. "I want a desk," he tells his superior. "I need a desk." After a
long stint undercover, Nick's body and soul have never really recovered.
Liotta, looking larger and more ominous than ever, is so scary that you
shouldn't be surprised if you are inclined to crawl under your seat for
protection. Oaks is one of the most effective detectives in the Detroit police
department, but, operating in his own Miranda-free world, he is under intensive
investigation by Internal Affairs. Although Oaks might as well have "Dirty Cop"
tattooed on his forehead, Liotta and the script leave you guessing until the end
about the truth.
The secret sauce of the movie is John Gilroy's editing. Fast paced and with
frequent use of jump cuts, Gilory puts you on edge just like you would be if you
were a cop working in the seedy drug world, where danger and death can literally
be found around every corner. The beauty of Carnahan's script and Gilroy's
editing is that the action periodically slows to a normal pace, as we enter the
domestic world of these two officers. The contrast between the serenity of home
life and the hellhole of work gives you insight into hardships that these law
enforcement officers must endure. We meet Nick with his family, and we hear Oak
talk about his wife, who died from cancer.
With just enough twists to keep you guessing some, the movie races to its fairly
inevitable conclusion. Most of it isn't pretty, but, when you leave the
theater, you'll know that you've really seen a movie, an exhilarating ride that
will leave you exhausted and satisfied.
NARC runs 1:42. It is rated R for "strong brutal violence, drug content and
pervasive language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes