One thing separates Narc from every other cop movie of this genre, and that is writer/director Joe Carnahan's (Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane) ability to infuse shades of gray into all his characters. Things are a lot more complex than right and wrong, especially for these cops. This still doesn't keep the movie from being predictable, and it takes a heck of a long time for Narc to come out and say what people already know from the beginning. It's a gritty and violent ride to the end, but sadly a little too familiar. Police officer Michael Calvess is dead, and no one can figure out who killed him. The department brings on disgraced Detective Sgt. Nick Tellis (Jason Patric, 3 Days of Rain, Your Friends & Neighbors) to try to shed some light on the case. They want Tellis because like Calvess, he spent a lot of time as an undercover narcotics officer.

However, while undercover, Tellis became addicted to drugs, resulting in a horribly the death of a pregnant woman during a botched raid. Tellis has no desire to do field work anymore, and the Calvess case present a major problem; he must come in contact with much of what tempted him over in the first place. He asks to be partnered with Calvess' partner Detective Lt. Henry Oak (Ray Liotta, John Q., Blow). Oak was found Calvess' body, and was extremely close to his partner. He also did much of the initial investigation. Oh, and Oak has a penchant for extreme violence when it comes to police force. Hmmm...Tellis soon begins to suspect that Oak knows something more about Calvess' murder than he is saying. To his credit, Carnahan does manage to make the ending a little more original than expected. By blurring the good and bad sides of his characters, he makes Narc a more complex movie. It's harder to root for one person or another because they can be just as bad as they are good.

Carnahan takes his own sweet time getting to this point, focusing so much more on his directing style that Narc sometimes feels like a primer for filmmaking styles. He favors the use of a handheld camera, especially for some of the chase scenes, in order to make the viewer feel like he/she is participating in the chase. He overuses this, and the main effect is to cause dizziness to those prone to motion sickness. He also goes a tad overboard on Oaks' background, trying to make his character too many things. Instead of explaining things, it bogs the story down. Liotta does give a menacing performance ably presenting Oaks' explosive personality, but like Narc, it feels like a lot of empty bluster.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated R for strong brutal violence, drug content, and pervasive language.

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