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Laramie Movie Scope: Narc

A white-hot film noir police suspense thriller

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 24, 2003 -- "Narc" is a low-budget police detective drama that is just as good as last year's searing cop drama "Training Day." Like that film, "Narc" explores the moral dilemmas of police work and the psychological price paid by those in the thin blue line. It is both a high-energy suspenseful thriller and a psychological drama. This is a powerful film with a high energy level from beginning to end. It belies its low budget every step of the way with great writing, directing, acting, camera work and editing.

Jason Patric of "Speed 2: Cruise Control" stars as Detective Sgt. Nick Tellis, a burned-out cop who is reluctantly drawn back onto the force to team up with another burned out detective, Henry R. Oak (Ray Liotta of "John Q"), to solve the case of a murdered cop, Oak's former partner. Tellis needs this job like a hole in the head. He was just getting his life back together. His wife is so mad at him for going back on the force she is ready to leave him. Oak is even worse. His personal life is totally shot. All he has left is his work. He is constantly in danger of going off the deep end in the investigation because of guilt over his partner's death. He is on the verge of losing control. There are film noir overtones to this film as the two officers wind their way deeper and deeper into the dark, seamy underbelly of the city's drug scene. They also begin to lose all sense of morality in their single-minded quest. Despite the danger and the increasing warning signs that the truth of this case is not going to be pretty, Tellis is driven to find the truth, regardless of the consequences to himself or others.

As the investigation proceeds, the two detectives find out all kinds of things about Oak's former partner that they didn't really want to know. The case gets more and more complicated. More and more possible scenarios concerning the murder are uncovered. The whole case plunges headlong into madness. The ending of the story is amazing. The white hot intensity of this film is achieved through great direction and writing by writer-director Joe Carnahan. The editing is also superb by John Gilroy ("Tumbleweeds"). Gilroy creates a lot of energy with stylish editing, including a "skip-ahead" technique to cut out unneeded movements. The cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy ("Never Been Kissed") uses a lot of hand-held shots, including some where the cameraman is actually running. These shots are naturally jerky, but they also give the film a lot of energy and a kind of home video realism. Carnahan is not a very experienced director, but you'd never know that by watching this film. It looks like the work of a veteran, talented director. Liotta and Patric are also superb in this film. They really show us the determination, disappointment and stress of detectives working a very difficult case. This is Liotta's best work since "Goodfellas." This might be Patric's best performance ever. This film rates a B+.

For more information on this film, including Jason Patric, Ray Liotta, Joe Carnahan, story, production, trailer, soundtrack, clips, click on this link to the official home page of Narc.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)