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Narc (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by writer/director Joe Carnahan and editor John Gilroy; Making The Deal; Shooting Up; The Visual Trip; The Friedkin Connection; Theatrical trailer.

BILLED as a homage to gritty classics such as The French Connection and Serpico, writer/director Joe Carnahan’s Narc signals its intent early on, with a devastatingly brutal chase, and grips like a vice throughout.

The film is an astonishingly powerful performance piece which grabs you from the off, seldom refusing to pull its punches in its realistic depiction of the dark underbelly of the drug world.

Jason Patric stars as suspended narcotics officer, Nick Tellis, who is drawn back to the force to investigate the brutal murder of a young police officer, killed in the line of duty.

A former drug addict himself, Tellis is seen as the ideal candidate to expose the truth behind the crime, given that many of his contacts remain uncompromised since his departure from the force.

Enlisting the support of Ray Liotta’s Henry Oak, the slain officer’s partner, who will stop at nothing to avenge his friend’s death, the two find themselves being drawn deeper and deeper into a twisted world of narcotics which threatens to bring both of them down.

Carnahan’s movie was nominated for the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at last year’s Sundance Film Festival (always a strong indicator of the year’s best independent releases) and has the high-profile backing of its star, Liotta, who also produces, as well as Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner (who executive produce).

Yet it remains a million miles away from the mainstream, due to its unflinching depiction of the world it seeks to expose, a world in which the narcs are equally as prone to becoming addicts as the dealers themselves.

Carnahan’s film was inspired by the critically-acclaimed documentary, The Thin Blue Line, which focused on the actual slaying of a Dallas police officer in 1976 and was first developed as a short film, entitled Gun Point, in 1994.

Yet the talented filmwriter became so fascinated by the subject that he opted to develop the theme further, producing a script that was quickly pounced upon by Liotta, who had been seeking a project to launch his own production company.

The result is a heavyweight movie which leaves you feeling punch-drunk throughout, an adrenaline ride fuelled by some incendiary performances. Patric is superb - confused, sympathetic and struggling to do the right thing - while Liotta delivers the type of performance he has been threatening since Goodfellas.

If Denzel Washington hadn’t walked off with the best actor Oscar last year for his dirty cop, then Liotta’s morally dubious veteran would be a strong favourite this time around.

Carnahan, too, emerges as a name to watch for the future, delivering a raw and unflinching tour-de-force. The mean streets of Detroit form the backdrop and almost envelope the viewer in the crime and grime which surround them; making you feel dirty as a result.

Yet Narc is that type of film; an intense potboiler that leaves you breathless throughout; a movie which, like those that it cites as references, bears all the hallmarks of a classic. It really shouldn’t be missed.

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