Cop Drama Narc’s unforgettable opening sequence explodes at a no-holds-barred pace that then doesn’t abate for the next 100 minutes of this mean, mesmerizing, adrenaline-charged, repulsive, violent and tragic bad-cop movie.
Undercover narc Nick Tellis (Jason Patric, Incognito) chases a drug dealer through the vice-infested back streets of urban Detroit — where bullets fly, a uniformed cop dies begging for help as his blood waterfalls from him and a pregnant woman is hit in the belly by a ricocheting bullet that kills her unborn child. It’s one hellishly thrilling piece of film.
The “heroes” in this movie don’t have a nice bone in their bodies; loyalty is their virtue and revenge runs in their veins. (Just a warning for those of you who are squeamish, or who are looking for cuddly date-night entertainment: Look elsewhere; this is a not a movie for those who cherish naivete.)
Tellis, himself the father of a young child, is devastated by what happened to the pregnant woman, and sinks into a Hades-shaded despair during his months of suspension. But he also knows, as so many real-life cops and soldiers do, that he’s not cut out for any other kind of job. Despite the pleas of his unhappy wife (Krista Bridges, Left Behind), Tellis returns to the force to help solve the recent murder of a fellow undercover cop. Tellis, a dogged researcher with a brilliant eye for inconsistent details, slowly but meticulously fills in the missing pieces of the slain cop’s last days. Joining him in the effort is the dead officer’s partner, Henry Oak (Ray Liotta, Good Fellas).
Oak is aptly named — he’s a giant of a man, enjoying his ability to intimidate people by his mere presence; if they don’t feel small immediately, he will pound them into a pulp until they do. Despite rumors to the contrary, he insists that his dead partner was a good cop. Oak’s obsession for revenge has “nothing to do with regulations and everything to do with right and wrong,” he declares. And that’s what this movie is really about — the contagion of evil, and the moral complicity of men who crawl too close to the slugs in society’s underbelly.
As Tellis beads in on the truth, the more complex and contradictory the story turns out to be, and the more questionable becomes the role Oak really played in his partner’s death. Nothing is as it seems; no one is whom they appear to be. Most enigmatic is the dead cop’s widow (Anne Openshaw, TV’s Breaker High ), and her relationship with Oak.
When the trail leads finally to two drug dealers (Richard Chevolleau and rapper Busta Rhymes), Oak’s pent-up rage escalates beyond control. This is when you wish you could put the movie on pause and rush outside to get a breath of fresh air. Alas, just like the gritty 1970s cop flicks upon which writer/director Joe Carnahan fashioned Narc, the film stops for nothing, careening dead ahead to its terrible climax. So incendiary are the performances by Patric and Liotta that the Oscar rumor mill is already buzzing.
See Narc on one of those days when you’re sitting around twiddling your thumbs thinking, Jeez, this small mountain town is so-o-o boring; I sure wish it was exciting like in a big city — say maybe New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Detroit.