A jarring and gritty tale of revenge and the search for redemption set against the decayed backdrops of inner-city Detroit, director Joe Carnahan's Narc offers a compelling crime story with actors Ray Liotta and Jason Patric in top form. Having tread familiar ground in the similarly-themed 1991 crime drama Rush, Patric turns in what might be his finest performance as a cop haunted by the mistakes of his past, but increasingly determined to redeem himself by aiding in the capture of a viscous cop-killer. Likewise, Liotta strikes a fierce chord as an unhinged and single-mindedly determined cop bent on capturing (and likely maiming) the drug dealers responsible for his former partner's demise. If Patric and Liotta had been underused and under-appreciated for some time, this film is a true testament to their remarkable ability to immerse themselves so much in character that the actor becomes a transparent vessel and the character a strikingly tangible and sympathetic entity into their own. If his freshman effort Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane garnered director Carnahan the unfavorable stigma of a Tarantino rip-off artist, Narc find's Carnahan truly coming into his own as a compelling storyteller. Though at times the clichés of crime thrillers boil to the surface, Carnahan has the kind of creativity and energy to quickly shift those familiar conventions into something truly effective and satisfying, and by skillfully taking the time to make his characters as street-smart, sympathetic and intimidating as they should be, he wisely builds the intensity to an almost unbearable level leading into a showdown that is as satisfying as it is believable and true to form. The amount of time spent drawing the characters as complex and believable individuals may seem unusual for a police detective thriller, but it's precisely this approach that makes Narc's ultimate denouement so powerful. There are many moments in which sympathies are shifted and the perspectives questioned, and by skillfully employing a Rashomon-like technique as the film edges closer to the abyss, Carnahan displays a deft ability to keep his audience frantically guessing.
by Jason Buchanan review