Preview by: Jack Foley
THE good cop/bad cop scenario, when played effectively, can produce
some electrifying cinema. Take Al Pacino in Serpico, for example,
or the Richard Gere versus Andy Garcia tussle in Internal Affairs.
Both examples of gritty, challenging and different takes on a
familiar theme. Likewise, last year's Oscar-winning Training
Day, which featured a tour-de-force from its leads, Denzel
Washington and Ethan Hawke.
Well, now step forward Narc, another in the long line of hard-as-nails
cop thrillers, featuring the talents of Ray Liotta and Jason Patric.
The movie opened in America recently and was greeted with almost
universal acclaim, no doubt buoyed by the positive reaction it
also drew from the Sundance Film Festival.
The film, directed by Joe Carnahan (who also wrote it), centres
on Detroit police narcotics officer, Nick Tellis (Jason Patric),
a recovering drug addict, who is assigned to investigate the murder
of a young rookie cop.
Teaming up with the dead cop's partner, Lt Henry Oak (Ray Liotta),
who's out for revenge, it's not long before Tellis gets close
to learning the truth, only to discover that he may have been
Of the two performers, Liotta has been drawing the most acclaim
- which is little wonder, given that the film is something of
a pet project for the star. He also serves as executive producer,
while Tom Cruise is listed among the producers.
To play the role, Liotta, who stands at six-foot-tall already,
wore lifts and pads to gain the type of bulk needed for the role,
as well as growing a wolfish gray goatee. He also deferred his
meager paycheck for the sake of the low-budget indie (a move which
so impressed Tom Cruise, he helped convince Paramount to buy it
from Lions Gate to distribute).
The gamble looks to have paid off, however, as the character
of Oak (who apparently shoots, kills and gets time to cry), is
earning Liotta some of the best notices of his career - and certainly
since his blistering turn in Goodfellas. The transformation was
so convincing, in fact, that Entertainment Weekly reported that
the actor went completely unrecognized at an American press junket.
The film opens in the UK on February 7.
Narc has drawn largely positive reviews from the US media, which
has praised its realistic approach, and quality of performance
(leading to some calls for an Oscar nod for Liotta).
Leading the way is FilmCritic.com, which awarded it three
and a half out of five and wrote that 'the two leads, nearly perfect
in their roles, bring a heart and reality that buoy the film,
and at times, elevate it to a superior crime movie'.
Better still was the New York Post, which awarded it three
out of four and raved that Narc is 'directed with enormous elan
by Joe Carnahan and boasts an arresting, Oscar-caliber
performance by Ray Liotta'.
Reel.com wrote that 'the good word hovering around this
hard-boiled thriller is well-deserved', while Rolling Stone
found it 'compulsively watchable', and Slant Magazine felt
that it 'recalls the tenacity and resilience of Hollywood in its
TV Guide felt that it was 'electrifying' and Film Threat
opined that 'Patric and Liotta are as tense and great as they've
Even those of a mixed nature veered towards the complimentary,
with LA Weekly stating that Narc is 'taut and well-acted,
faltering only when the filmmaker loses faith in the power of
Salon, meanwhile, said that it is 'a rock-solid little
genre picture', while E! Online referred to it as 'the
straight dope for gritty crime-story junkies'. The New York
Post referred to it as 'exciting but brutal'.
Of a more negative nature was Village Voice, which warned
that it 'falls into the patronizing tar pit of last-act exposition
and twist endings'.
But Film Journal International felt that it 'ultimately
delivers some neat twists', while Entertainment Weekly,
which awarded it a B+ perhaps put it best, writing that 'writer-director
Joe Carnahan pursues his own line of inquiry with an energy -
and a tolerance for moral limbo - that sets this gritty, propulsive
B movie apart from the rest of the squad right from the first
It concluded that '[Liotta and Patric] are just a couple of cops
in Copmovieland, these two, but in 'Narc,' they find new routes
through a familiar neighborhood'.