A/V Room









Narc - Preview & US reaction

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 set up.

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.

US reaction

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, 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'. 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 glory days'.

TV Guide felt that it was 'electrifying' and Film Threat opined that 'Patric and Liotta are as tense and great as they've ever been'.

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 his story'.

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 frame'.

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'.

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