What is it about cop thrillers that get the blood flowing? Is it the guns, the car chases, the good cop vs. bad cop theme, or a combination of everything? Personally, I think it’s none of the above. A good cop thriller to me features a simple story with little to no overpowering features. Meaning, there are no over-the-top special effects or impossible stunts that leaves nothing but clichés in the end. Whatever happened to the traditional cop thriller, like “Narc,” that focused on just the story and the lives of the cops involved? Well, for what it’s worth that classic cop thriller may be making a comeback with the release of “End of Watch” this week, making “Narc” an easy pick for DVD.
The story in “Narc” is one that never veered off into something more important than the drama unfolding. Right from the word ‘go,’ the director gets you involved with a foot chase that will not only make you sick to your stomach, but will leave you wanting more. And the premise in this one focuses on the Detroit drug scene and the undercover narcotics officers trying to stop it. One of those officers was Nick Tellis (Jason Patric), a recently activated narcotics officer and the other Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), a highly decorated detective who swallowed his pride to work with the inexperienced Tellis on a case he once started, but was later pulled from due to personal attachments with the victim. Attachments that we later find out prove to be the biggest pieces to the overall puzzle that Tellis was trying so hard to solve. And both Oak and Tellis were unique in their methods of obtaining information. Oak was the hard-nosed tough cop, who seemed to always have a chip on his shoulder while Tellis was more laid back just waiting for someone to make the wrong move. The two wind up making a great duo, as the story progressed into something neither one of them were ready for leading to a conclusion that might have your stomach in knots.
For a couple guys that have not been in much since this film, both Liotta and Patric played their parts well here with an outcome that was both real and believable. The only problem was there wasn’t enough of Ray Liotta, who didn’t show his face until 20 minutes into the film. Jason Patric was showcased more in my mind and was good. I just think the film would have been stronger had Liotta been around more often. He’s a guy who has done a lot without anyone really knowing ever since breaking onto the scene in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” way back in 1990. And here he showed that rare talent you just don’t see that often from current actors. Of course, then you look at Patric who really has done nothing since this film and wonder what happened? He was good and showed me ‘something,’ but apparently no one else agrees as some 10 years later he still is relatively unknown amongst Hollywood circles. That’s too bad for he has the talent to do much more than his resume reveals.
You know one thing that I really liked about this film was the overall theme and how it played out with what was taking place. No drug scene is pretty and director Joe Carnahan made sure his film was no different, making no attempt to take anything away from the raw nature of the Detroit streets and the grittiness it is draped with. “Narc” was fast in some parts and slow in others allowing each and every emotion to be felt without ever giving up on the importance of that individual part of the story. It was dark, corruptive and ugly, all characteristics of a good cop thriller for the mind and body showing that there is no beautiful side to this type of police work, especially in this section of Detroit. “Narc” is a great example of how a film with very low aspirations can succeed and turn out to be one that is both worthwhile and entertaining to watch.
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