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Unmissable 5 Stars
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Jason Patric
Ray Liotta
Chi McBride
Busta Rhymes.
Joe Carnahan.
Joe Carnahan.
Running Time
105 minutes

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Jason Patric and Ray Liotta turn in amazing performances as undercover narcotics cops.

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Persuaded back into active service by his superiors, Nick Tellis finds himself walking the same dangerous streets that almost got him killed when he was an undercover narcotics cop. Now he's investigating the murder of a fellow officer - but is his volatile new partner, Lt. Henry Oak, entirely on the level?

Maybe it's the woollen hat and the handlebar moustache. Maybe it's the hefty good-cop-bad-cop pairing. Or maybe it's the split screen sequence. Whatever it is, there's something about Narc that's reminiscent of classic '70s cop movies such as Serpico and The French Connection. And if director Joe Carnahan doesn't quite match the output of that golden age, it's not for lack of effort on his or his cast's part.

Carnahan - whose directorial debut Blood, Guts, Bullets And Octane represented the worst of the American indies' infatuation with Tarantino posturing - has come of age with a movie that bristles with energy, from its stand-out, hand-held opening chase to its brutal, bloody denouement.

The film's visual hallmark is more Seven than Dirty Harry, but this isn't all about surface sheen. Carnahan's independent sensibilities go further than that, digging deep into the minds of his characters.

He takes undercover-cop clichÚs ù tearful wife, Black captain, mismatched partners ù and uses them as psychological tools. What is it that drives these men to lay their lives on the line, day in, day out? Narc might not have all the answers but, unlike so many films in the same narrative ballpark, at least it has the audacity to ask the questions.

To this end, the director is helped in no small part by his leading men. Patric very probably has the harder of the two roles; the troubled, introspective Tellis is caught between loving duty to his wife and consuming empathy for the dead undercover cop. Note that it's not bullying from above, but a snatched glance at a scan photograph of the deceased's unborn child that convinces him to take the case.

That said, it's Liotta - Oak by name, oak by stature - who dominates the film with the best performance of his career. Quick to anger but with a smothered sensitivity, this character's essential ambiguity keeps the plot ticking over.

Undoubtedly. Later on, when story takes over from character and mood, the film drops into mainstream mystery territory. But that’s a small price to pay for performances and direction of such a high standard.

Reviewed by Alan Morrison

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Average user rating for Narc
Empire Star Rating

Just saw Narc, man, what an overlooked film. Genuinely great police/crime movie looking at the undercover side of things and how it affects people and their family's, and what they are willing to do to protect people they care about whether it's within the rules or not. Brilliant performances, great story and twist(s). Proof that Liotta can be really great, his best movie easily after Goodfellas. Jason Patrick was really good as well, and the film was really gritty and realistic. The opening sce... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Coyleone at 23:53, 04 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Narc,pure class

It was good yes. Ray Liotta was great in it and was a dark, nitty-gritty cop movie that proves that Detroit cops ain't scared to get their hands dirty. ... More

Posted by curtain twitcher at 17:17, 10 April 2007 | Report This Post

Narc,pure class

It should have got five stars,this movie was pure class.  The dark and dirty visuals were amazing,not to mention the powerhouse performance by jason patric.  Why isnt there more movies like this,cus we all know nasty shit happens everyday,especially in and around the american police forces.  then theres ray liotta,well,what can u say,hes just ray,always delivers!!!    ] ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by watwudscoobydo at 17:00, 10 April 2007 | Report This Post

Grabs you by the balls

One of the best cop movies of recent memory, full of shouting, shooting scenes that keep you hooked right to the end. ... More

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Posted by Caster at 10:39, 23 March 2007 | Report This Post

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