An undercover narc dies, the investigation stalls, so the Detroit P.D. brings back Nick Tellis, fired 18-months ago when a stray bullet hits a pregnant woman. Tellis teams with Henry Oak, a friend of the dead narc and an aggressive cop constantly under the scrutiny of internal affairs. They follow leads, informants turn up dead, Nick's wife is unhappy he's back on the street, Henry's protective of the dead cop's wife. Nick reads and re-reads the case file, broods, watches Oak's heavy-handed style, sometimes joining in. The brass want to close out the case, Nick and Henry stay on it, and bits of evidence point them to an auto body shop. What actually happened; will Nick ever know? Written by
The good-cop-bad-cop pairing in movies is so well-worn, that it has practically become a Hollywood institution. Thankfully 'Narc' powerfully smashes the stereotype.
Persuaded back into active service by his bosses, ex narcotics cop Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) finds himself investigating the murder of a fellow officer alongside live-wire new partner Henry Oak (Ray Liotta).
The coupling of Tellis and Oak feels so realistic, you actually understand each character's resentment at being pitched together.
It's this natural mistrust which erases the legacy of Lethal Weapon style buddy relationships, and instead harks back to classic '70s cop movies such as 'Serpico'.
'Narc' bristles with energy, from its heart-stopping hand-held opening chase to its brutal, bloody showdown, all the while framed by cold claustrophobic street scenes.
Director Joe Carnahan probes deep into the characters to discover what drives these men to lay their lives on the line, day in, day out.
It helps that the performance of both leading men is superb. Patric's troubled, introspective Tellis is torn between his loving family and his empathy for the dead undercover cop.
However, it's Liotta - Oak by name, oak by stature - who dominates the film with a career-best performance. Intimidating and brutal but never inhuman, he forces you to remember just how powerful a cinematic presence he can be, given the right material.
'Narc' is a fast-paced, original, gritty thriller that will leave you wanting another fix. 9/10
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