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Directed by Joe Carnahan.
Written by Joe Carnahan.
Starring Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. 
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  1/14/03 


Love Ray Liotta.  He looked intense in the trailers for “Narc”, the new film by writer/director Joe Carnahan, and that was all I needed to go see this film.

Liotta is perfect for the role of Detective Henry Oak, an unstable Detroit officer that has just lost his partner, Michael Calvess (Alan Van Sprang), to a drug deal gone bad.  Detective Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) is put on the murder investigation to tag along with Oak, since Oak’s superiors think he may violate police procedure in tracking down Calvess’ killers.  Why is Tellis the right man for the job?  Tellis has been out of work for the past 18 months due to a collateral damage death at the hands of his police-issue handgun following a chase with a known criminal.  To get back on the force, Tellis only has to finish this one case for the city, and he will be reinstated with a desk job...which is all Tellis wants, since he is now a family man and father of a newborn son.

The heart of the film, much like “Training Day”, follows these two mismatched officers as they pursue the killer of the slain officer and we get Liotta and Patric almost exclusively for the final two-thirds of the film, and their performances are magnificent.  Liotta does intense as well as anyone out there, and as he beats perpetrator after perpetrator, curses to his heart’s content and stares at criminals with those steely eyes, it is easy to buy how crazy his character might be.  It is Patric that is the real surprise here.  Normally accustomed to blank looks in bad films like “Speed 2: Cruise Control”, he is incredible in “Narc” and I have to believe that the credit here goes to Carnahan for milking a great performance out of him without making him do things outside of his range.  The struggles that Tellis faces at home, on the job, and in his partnership with Oak are brought together beautifully by Patric’s performance.  Support by Chi McBride (“Boston Public”) and Krista Bridges as Tellis’ wife is pretty good; the gritty Detroit scenery makes me believe that, along with similar sets in “8 Mile”, I might never be a full-time resident in the Motor City, because Carnahan seems to have found every gutted apartment, warehouse and street corner that wasn’t used in the Eminem drama.

The investigation plot that makes up most of the running time for “Narc” is a bit hackneyed, so the surprises in the storyline are few and far between.  You definitely get the feeling that you have been down this road before, and while “Narc” does a good job of keeping you hooked, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel here.  Beyond that, “Narc” is pretty solid entertainment driven by very energetic performances in the lead roles.  Besides, did you really want to go see “Just Married”?

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09