A review of “Narc” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ****

Rating: R for violence, language

Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes



I’m a sucker for high-octane, morally neglectful cop movies.  When those fast-paced babies are saturated with corruption, violence and redemption, count me in.                      

Lucky Joe Carnahan, who had previously directed only the low budget crime comedy “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane”, caught the eye of no less than Tom Cruise when “Narc” screened on the who’s-who private-screening circuit.  Tom has clout where it counts, so, voila!, Joe found himself with a distribution deal and a movie that’s knocking critics’ socks off.

Which is as it should be.  Ray Liotta hands over his best performance in years as Henry Oak, a widowed rogue homicide detective with a ten-ton chip on his shoulder.  Forced into partnership with burned-out narcotics cop Nick Tellis (Jason Patric), Oak pulls rank and sets up a co-covert murder investigation into the death of a rookie undercover officer, who happened to be Oak’s ex-partner.

We’ve seen it before.  The dark underbelly of the drug world, cops teetering on the edge of sanity, and an officer’s sorely neglected wife.  But Carnahan and his players manage to synchronize their story (set on the mean streets of Motor City) to the primal drumbeat of cruelty, keeping it tense and edgy to the last frame.

Graphic images jockey with smashing technique – split screen, blue-tinted digital, etc.  The script is hard core grit, delivered with genuine, teeth-gnashing turpitude by our stellar boys in blue.  Liotta and Patric are the yin and yang of the project and they know it, oozing bad boy confidence and sinister style. Perfectly executed in an urgent, 70s action fashion whose time has come and (sadly) gone, “Narc” is must-see cinema.