3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
narc So gritty it almost hurts, this is an edgy and gripping cop thriller that only rarely dips into cliche territory. After a particularly awful incident, Detective Nick Tellis (Patric) is lured back into active duty by an unsolved case involving the death of a fellow undercover narcotics officer. But he'll have to work with hothead Detective Henry Oak (Liotta) to solve it. The trail seems to have gone completely cold, but together Nick and Henry tenaciously get to the bottom of things, following a string of bodies, stolen guns and sleazy drug dealers. Nick's wife (Bridges) is not happy about all this. And neither is Nick, really, especially when things start to twist nightmarishly as he gets closer to solving the case.

Carnahan's writing and direction are tight and urgent, grabbing us by the lapels and thrusting our faces into the grimy underbelly of the Detroit drug world (although it was filmed in Toronto). It's pretty gruesome stuff, forcing us to catch our breaths more than once. And it's also extremely well acted by Patric, who played a similar character in 1991's Rush, and especially Liotta, who plays the burly Oak way against type. The storyline itself is clever and inventive, right down to the final surprise. On the other hand, this is a cop movie, so it has to adhere to certain rules. At the beginning we have some hope that Carnahan will flout the traditions and give us something new and unexpected, and for the first half of the film it indeed keeps us nicely off-balance, focusing on the characters. Then the plot takes over and diverts our attention. Still, it looks fantastic (none of that anonymous Hollywood slickness here!), and with performances this interesting, it's definitely a cut above almost everything else in the genre at the moment.

cert 18 strong themes, violence, language, drugs 20.Jan.03

dir-scr Joe Carnahan
with Jason Patric, Ray Liotta, Chi McBride, Busta Rhymes, Richard Chevolleau, Krista Bridges, Anne Openshaw, Tony DeSantis, Alan Van Sprang, Dan Leis, John Ortiz, Carson Durven
release US 20.Dec.02; UK 7.Feb.03
02/US 1h45

Armed to the teeth. Henry and Nick (Liotta and Patric) prepare to finally nab the culprits...

patric liotta
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall