Narc (Review)

Ray and Jason share a laugh.

Ray and Jason share a laugh.

The other day I watched INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Yes, I am a Tarantino fan.

A couple of days later I watched this film called Narc. (For the third time.)

Let the record show I would much rather watch this a 4th time than sit through Inglourious again.

Not to say Narc is an all-time classic, but it is an extremely good film which deserved more attention than it got when released earlier this decade.

Narc opens in a foot-chase between some guy and a scrawny, bedraggled Jason Patric as undercover cop Nick. The chase is filmed using the now all-too familiar hand held camera style, where the picture shudders and bounces along so that it is hard to focus and make sense of exactly what is happening.

(This is OK in small doses but is now far too often used to cover up sub-par action. If I had my way directors could use it for no more than 3 minutes per film, and not for fight scenes.)

Back to the story: The bad guy kills an innocent bystander, then picks up a young child as Nick closes in. Nick draws and shoots the bad guy dead, only in doing so inadvertently shoots a pregnant woman in the background.

This is all shown in realistic graphic fashion, there are no somersaults or kung fu kicks, and no-one shoots with the pistol held sideways (even though that does look cool).  The background is washed out greys and blues and kinda depressing  really.

This sets the tone for Narc.

Cut to Nick the Narc’s subsequent trial proceedings for the usual cop charge of recklessness near innocent bystanders. It turns out that he had already been sacked from the force, but as movies tend to do, they give him a reason to be pulled back in.

In this case another undercover cop has been murdered and the police want answers. Answers that they feel only a guy who was previously undercover, and who would have low-life connections and knowledge can give. Nick is sent back in to find the killer with the promise of reinstatement if he is successful.

At this time Nick also meets his new partner Henry Oak, played by Ray Liotta, who was also good friends with the murdered cop Michael Calvess. Oak is somewhat of a loose cannon, abiding by the cop-movie cliché: in short he “plays by his own rules”, and will stop at nothing to find the killer.

Of course being thrust together Nick and Oak don’t like or trust each other initially, (Oak thinks Nick is Internal Affairs) but it feels real and justified here, and not at all forced.

As the investigation begins it becomes evident that this is not a movie where the trail is simply there to move between shootouts and car chases, with snappy dialogue in between. The investigation is slow, methodical and deliberate, with dead ends and lots of wasted effort.

Oh and in this case a dude with no pants who lit his missus on fire as revenge. Why? Let’s just say for causing him to go pantless.

Along the way Nick’s wife, disappointed that he has moved back into the firing line, decides enough is enough and moves out, taking their child with her. Again, in a lesser buddy-cop movie there would be a tearful reunion and all would be rosy, not here.

The film’s crescendo builds onward and upward toward providing an answer to what actually happened on the day Calvess was killed. We are given tidbits of information along the way, but nothing is resolved until the film is ready for it to happen.

The ending is not so much a twist as it is a resolution, and when the truth finally arrives it is more a relief than a revelation.


A few things I learned watching Narc:

  • Despite being a mere cartoon himself, Busta Rhymes can actually act, he has a brief but important role here and is very good.
  • Narc might be the only place that you might hear a song by The Baby Namboos. Actually a very good song by The Baby Namboos.
  • Ray Liotta is as versatile as anyone going around. His resume this decade includes Wild Hogs, Smokin’ Aces, Heartbreakers, Revolver and Hannibal. And he was in Muppets from Space in 1999, and made me laugh in that.
  • Jason Patric is best when playing a scungy, downbeat low-life (see also Rush), largely because I think he is a scungy, downbeat guy (not necessarily a low-life).
  • And no white guy spits the words Mother-Fucker like JP.

Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. A reasonably straightforward film elevated by great performances and gritty realism, give me this over “CSI Anything” anyday.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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